I used to call it the decline of classical music — the aging, shrinking audience, the mounting financial woes.
Though this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still catalogue the change. One place you can find a catalogue of changes, as the old ways fade — changes going back decades — is a blog post of mine called “Timeline of the Crisis.”
And here’s a dramatic new entry for it. It was posted on Facebook by Marianna Gray, a friend of my wife’s and mine in Washington. Marianna is a lively and knowledgeable classical music fan (and not from an older generation), who travels to European music festivals. This summer she made a striking discovery:
WOW! I was checking the summer festivals just now. It used to be that places like Verbier and Lucerne would sell most (if not all) of their concerts to the Friends of the Festival, nothing would go to general public. That was especially true about Verbier that had kind of a “cult” following. This year…. EVERY concert is available. Premium seats. The same goes for Lucerne. Not a single sold-out performance. Even more shocking – one can buy tickets to any of the four Ring Cycles at Bayreuth (on-line, mind you AND conducted by no less than Kirill Petrenko). Only Thielemans’s Tristan und Isolde is sold out. WOW WOW WOW. The situation is somewhat “better” for Salzburg where most of the operas and some of the concerts are sold out. It is vary clear that the audience is changing. And it would be false to say that there is no audience for the classical music in general, but those who were willing to spend big $$ to attend the festivals are literally dying out and the younger people have neither time nor the money for such an extravagant affair….
Of course I’m quoting her with her permission. And I should add that she may or may not agree with my view of the larger classical music story. But she was happy to let me pass on what she discovered.
As a footnote, I might cite a story that appeared in the New York Times a little before Marianna’s post, about the oldest classical music festival in France: “Strasbourg Music Festival Closes, Cites Poor Ticket Sales.”
Of course each festival has its own `situation, and for Strasbourg, one factor was not just a fading audience, but competition from a nearby festival in Germany. Still, at one time the two festivals might both have been able to flourish. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore.
Meanwhile, of course, classical music really is changing, and out of the changes — new ways of giving concerts, new ways of playing old masterworks, new ways of writing new classical works — a future emerges, in which classical music will survive, and very likely flourish. That’s a story, as long-time readers know, that I celebrate in this blog.