Is it just me, or is this yet another demonstration of the way classical music lives in a little box, without looking up to think how it might look to the outside world?
A CD by Early Music New York came in the mail, called A Bohemian Christmas. Now, nothing against the CD itself, which is just fine, really nice to listen to. But won’t most people think first of offbeat artists celebrating Christmas, and not, as the group intends, about Christmas in medieval Bohemia, the place Dvorak later came from, which is now part of the Czech Republic?
Sure, there’s a vaguely appealing graphic on the cover, obviously a reproduction of medieval art. (It would be more appealing if the cover were laid out more professionally.) But still the title won’t suggest — at least to most people — what the group wants it to.
Which brings up a related problem. It’s been said many times that non-initiates, browsing in the few remaining record stores that have large classical music sections, don’t know what they’re looking at. This CD is a perfect example of why that happens. Christmas in Bohemia? Since it obviously doesn’t mean offbeat painters and poets, what does it mean? How many people browse through record stores with medieval Bohemia on their minds? Who’s the target audience for this? Anyone at all? And thus some really lovely music fails to find its listeners. (Or at least fails to find the many new people, outside the group’s core audience, who might really enjoy it.)
(Another lesson here: So often we have classical music scholarship on our minds, not audience appeal. Which this CD ought to have!)