It is not good. Munich has decided to renovate its old concert hall instead of building a new one. And now the whole classical lobby is attacking the decision makers like a wolf pack.
The columnist Gustav Seibt writes in the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” that every child who has seen the beauty and grandeur of an opera will never forget it. For him the world of beauty and profoundness can only continue to exist if they are performed at outstanding locations. The decision against a new concert hall is for him like a destruction of culture.
A very strong group of supporters for a new concert hall is now trying to tip the decision. Especially the columnists in the newspapers and the traditional opera visitors have built up a strong lobby against the Governor of Bavaria and the Mayor of Munich who decided for the renovation solution.
There is a simple theory of Olson which describes the situation: There is a small group of supporters of a new concert hall and a much bigger group which does not want to spend so much money. Olson says that the small group will organize themselves very well and fight hard to get a decision in their favour. They have excellent access to the press and lobbyists who are close to the decision makers. On the other side the much bigger group will not get organized so well and will not fight so hard because they have much less to lose. This is the reason why the minority often wins over the majority.
Where are all the unknown musicians who would like to play in an affordable small concert hall? They do not organize themselves as a lobby group. Where are all the classical music lovers who would like to go to cheap concerts? Also they will not organize themselves as a group!
The big group has no lobby! And the small group is very professionally organized.
The Governor and Mayor have decided well! Go for a smaller solution. But please do not forget to provide unknown musicians with small concert halls and enable the mayority of the population to visit cheap concerts. This way you will make more people happy!
Yesterday I have been at a concert in New Delhi and at the end the organiser said: Thank you for coming. In these days it is all about “time is money”. You come here to see the artists. And we artists want to express that time is also memory, pleasure, phantasy, recreation and the good feeling to enjoy something beautiful together with others.
There is a big imbalance between material and immaterial values. People are ready to spend a lot of money for material things but only little money for cultural activities. This is the reason why most of the engineers have a rather good income and the biggest part of the artist has hardly enough money to survive.
Does it makes therefore sense to become better an engineer than an artist? The answer might be that if you are not 100 percent sure that your life is dedicated to become an artist it is probably more reasonable to become an engineer. But if you are 100 percent sure there is no other way to enjoy the creative life of an artist and to overlap all the obstacles.
Vaudeville show, Chanson, Jazz, One-man-show, dance, musical comedy: these entertainment activities will replace the classical concerts in future in the Pleyel Hall in Paris. Because classical music is according to one of the men who decided this, all over the world dependent of sponsors or public subsidies.
The Pleyel Hall is one of the famous concert halls in Paris with almost 2000 seats that was built in 1927 by Pleyel et Cie, the French piano manufacturing firm that has been founded by Ignace Pleyel in 1807.
It is possible to fill the Pleyel Hall with audience through one-man-shows but no more with classical concerts. Unbelievable!
It seems to me that classical musiciens as well as music promotors have run out of inspiration. If the pure classical concert does not fill any more concert halls than one has to combine the concerts with entertainment elements instead of giving it up completely.
My impression is that the old boys network in classical music and the promotor giants who dominate the big concert halls need urgently a big bucket of cold water and new ideas.
Munich is discussing at the moment if there is a need for a new concert hall. The new hall shall enable Munich to stay among the worldwide leading classical cities. It is seen as a “must have” to be able to compete with cities like London, New York or Hamburg.
Everybody knows that it is necessary to have high quality concert halls. But also everybody knows that cultural richness depends on manifold events in a city.
There is a range of classical concert halls in Munich but hardly any smaller halls for an audience of 50 – 150 visitors.
If I want to organize a concert hall today I have to pay around 250 Euro for the rent of one of the few concert halls and if I need in addition a piano there is another 250 Euro more. For flyers and posters I need around 150 Euro. In case that I invite a colleague to join my concert I have to pay him minimum 250 Euro. If I count 100 Euro for miscellaneous expenses I need a total amount of 1000 Euro. As entrance fee I can not ask for more than 15 Euro. This means that I need aroung 67 visitors to cover my expenses.
A new concert hall will cost around 100 Mio Euro. Let us assume that we build 5 smaller concert halls for 30 Mio Euro I would have the difference of 70 Mio Euro to support the smaller concerts. If there would be a support of 500 Euro per concert it would be possible to support 140 000 concerts.
The question is now what makes more sense for the city: Building a concert hall for the stars or support the manifold musicians in the city with an additional offer of concert halls and subsidization of their concerts.
At least when it comes to questions of regional development nobody would decide to invest in one big player and probably all decision makers would decide to support a flourishing environment of young small and fast growing companies.
Of humble background I can’t imagine what introduced me to good music. Certainly there was little to be cheerful about in post-war Britain. In our 1950s humble home, with its primitive radio that broadcast only four programmes, we kids were told to be very quiet when tenors John McCormack, Joseph Locke, the love duet from Madame Butterfly or prelude from La Traviata was playing.
As a youngster I could see merit in classical music. However, I was seduced by Country Music and Liverpool’s 1960s Mersey Sound until my late teens. I afterwards lost my appetite for music. I focused on other interests but had some inclination towards light waltz, military and brass band marches.
In the 1990s Britain’s BBC 3 Radio was pompous, discordant and heavy. It treated we plebeians with contempt. BBC 2 Radio did condescend to provide a few hours of light classical music mostly on a Sunday evening such as Your Sunday Half Hour and Your 100 Best Tunes.
How do I define good music? By our knowing what is genuinely popular, not just for a year but over hundreds of years. Pop(ular) music is not what the public is told is fashionable by the music industry. By a happy coincidence this just happens to be what the music industry find most profitable.
It was about this time I pulled into a car repair garage my car for was to be annually tested. That day was a beautiful summer’s day and the car windows were down. The radio left on I seem to recall the Love Duet from La Boheme was playing.
What a conversation stopper. It was like one of those classical music flash mobs now so popular. Staff and waiting customers were enchanted. Their reaction to the aria was a sheer joy to experience. The sheeple had simply never explored what alternatives were available on radio.
Then, in the early 1990s I jumped for joy when I heard that a radio station dedicated to popular classical was to go on the air from September 1992. Classic FM was to return to the people the peoples music. After all, classical music, composed by mostly lower-class musicians, is the art form of the working classes. I looked forward to recovering our soul music from the snobbish bien-pensant set.
That morning when Classic FM was to first broadcast I was like a kid at Christmas. At 6 am the first track was played by the station’s Nick Bailey. I am no great fan of Handel’s Zadok the Priest but it was certainly music to my ears that golden dawn.
Classic FM hoped that 2.8 million listeners would eventually be attracted to its broadcasts. By Christmas 4.3 million were tuning in every week and Classic FM was Britain’s fourth most popular radio station. I felt vindicated.
The popular British radio station has since collected more silverware (almost) than has Liverpool Football Club. The radio station is now listened to by 5.6 million people each week. In 2013, Classic FM was named UK Radio Brand of the Year at the Sony Awards.
I live in the Costa Blanca. Mediterranean Spain’s broadcasters ignore demand for good music. Is this an own goal? The Costa communities attract people of all nationalities who have a distinctly sophisticated middle-brow taste in music. Karaoke just doesn’t do it as well as Beethoven, Mahler or Mozart do.
The melodies and waltzes from Franz Lehar’s the Merry Widow and Wiener Frauen (Viennese Women) were familiar to me yet I was oblivious to the fact that this great musician was also a contemporary of the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Lehár’s music was primarily associated with the blessed tranquility that reigned throughout Europe before the cataclysmic outbreak of the Great War in 1914, a cataclysmic conflict that was to change everything.
Best known as a composer of operettas the musician’s output was prodigious. During his 35 years career as a composer and conductor he wrote nearly 40 operettas. Hungarian born of German ethnicity Franz Lehár’s best known and most enduring success was The Merry Widow. This was first played at Theater-an-der-Wien in 1905. It cast its enchanting spell over more than 5,000 performances. Such was its popularity that at one time it was playing simultaneously in five different languages. In Buenos Aires it was playing simultaneously in five different theatres.
It was impossible not to admire and enjoy Franz Lehár’s operettas, marches, dances and symphonic poems. His music was very much enjoyed by Adolph Hitler. The German Chancellor awarded the composer the distinguished Goethe Medal despite the fact that the composer was married to a Jewish lady. It is one of the quirks of history that Franz Lehár was born on 30 April, the same calendar date that the German Chancellor died.
Of his many waltzes most of us find his Golden and Silver Waltz irresistible. Many a parent has spun their child around the kitchen table to its lilting melody. My mother put me through such embarrassment but I can be sure I was her heart’s delight. This happened to be the name given to one of Franz Lehár’s most famous operetta songs. Wherever You Are My Heart’s Delight is played it brings audiences to their feet.
In July 2004 the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra held its end of the season concert at the Berlin Waldbuhne Stadium, which is one of the great parks situated just outside Berlin. On this occasion Rolando Villazon; the world famous Mexican tenor was joined by Madrid-born Placido Domingo and beautiful Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko. Together the trio sang Lehár’s You Are My Heart’s Delight ((Dein ist mein ganzes Herz). The effect on the 20,000 theatre-goers was electrifying.
Is it possible that songs written today will be bringing rapturous applause from such audiences in 90-years time? I very much doubt it. There is a saying: ‘To live in the hearts of those you leave behind is not to die.’ The music of this former military musician will live on in our hearts and our feet for centuries to come.
Most of us with an ear for precious Spanish melodies will be familiar with Pablo de Sarasate’s gypsy airs (Zigeunerweisen); otherwise his Carmen Fantasy. The catchiness and spontaneity of these Spanish melodies brings a pause to any table talk.
Pablo Sarasate’s home town of Pamplona situated in northern Spain is best known for its annual Fiesta de San Fermin. Few of us mere mortals would care to join the crowds of thrill seekers as they race through the city’s narrow streets pursued by rampaging bulls. The city is also host to a far less dangerous but equally thrilling opportunity to enjoy the annual Pablo de Sarasate fiesta. As a composer he is feted by some of the greatest composers of Spanish music.
Born in 1844 the gifted musician was studying music by the age of five. He was introduced to music by his father, an artillery bandmaster. The pupil later received instruction more formally from a gifted and supportive music teacher. Pablo was just eight years of age when he gave his first public concert.
His performances impressed both audiences and Spanish nobility, who were quick to sponsor the talented youngster. Soon to become a firm favourite of Queen Isabel 11, his was a talent that could never be squandered. He was just twelve years old when his proud mother decided to take him to Paris to study with the acclaimed teacher Jean Alard at the Paris Conservatoire.
Heartbreak and ill fortune was to accompany the pair. Soon after crossing the French border the prodigy’s mother suffered a heart seizure and died. When her son was taken by the police to the Spanish authorities in Bayonne, Pablo was found to be suffering from the killer disease cholera.
Touched by the tragedy, and no doubt impressed by the youngster’s musical ability and connections, the Spanish consul took the grieving boy into his home until the child recovered from his illness. As soon as the youngster recovered from his dreadful illness his benefactor sent Pablo on to Paris where he was to be auditioned by Monsier Alard. The teacher quickly saw a gift to be encouraged in the youngster.
At seventeen Pablo Sarasete was to earn the coveted Premiere Prix. He had by this time won the hearts of those who had already earned acclaim in the world of great music. Works dedicated to him included Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, Bizet’s Carmen, and Saint-Saëns’ Rondo Capriccioso; another foot-stamping evocation.
Sarasate was the ultimate caballero, a gentleman of refinement, elegance and impeccable dress. During his lifetime he received thousands of love letters but ignored them all and was destined to remain a bachelor throughout his life. Despite such adulation he was the personification of chivalry. The talented and popular Sarasate kept a supply of beautiful Spanish fans in order that he might leave his many lady admirers a token of his affection and gratitude.
Sarasate loved his city’s exuberant but dangerous Fiesta de San Fermin. This tumultuous event he excitedly viewed from his balcony as the scores of bulls charged through the city’s narrow winding streets.
Spain gave life to this unique composer. Few were better placed that Sarasate to give Spain to the world. Maestro Pablo Sarasate died of chronic bronchitis in 1908. When visiting Pamplona do try to visit the museum dedicated to him and listen to his music. I promise you will be captivated.
There are many ways of presenting classical music. One of the most important is it to organise a concert in a concert hall. But this is not possible for everybody. Concert halls are very expensive and it is not so easy to fill them with audience. Therefore we search places where good musicians can find their audience. It is clear that there are unlimited possibilities. But we are searching for places that combine different features and that enable also the access to classical music listeners who do not go normally in a concert hall.