How to sell classical music to a new audience

Gabriel Prokofiev, classical DJ, composer and grandson of Sergei:

The current concert format is old-fashioned. It’s based on rules devised by the bourgeoisie at the turn of the 19th century to protect and elevate their culture. They tried to make it this semi-religious experience, sacred and serious. But in Mozart’s time concerts were more informal: Mozart expected one movement to be played, he didn’t expect a perfect rendition of the whole symphony. I know plenty of people who feel intimidated by a classical concert. They feel as though there’s some sort of code, some sort of language they’re just not worthy of knowing. I went to the ballet to see Romeo and Juliet, by my grandfather. I’m not joking, I turned up a minute late and they wouldn’t let me in. I missed the whole of the first act. That’s part of the formality of these kind of events. Why do they start at 7.30pm? For the past six years I’ve been running classical club nights upstairs in the Horse & Groom pub in Shoreditch, East London. The live music doesn’t start until nine o’clock. There’s a DJ between acts, people can have a drink and chat. If they don’t like the piece they can move to the bar. It’s what people are used to at pop gigs. We’re reaching out to a younger audience.

Read the full article in The Times here.

Stephen Hough: It's not Mozart, stupid!

I read yesterday that researchers at Vienna University’s Faculty of Psychology, after 15 years of examining the data, have determined that there is no provable connection between listening to Mozart and increased intelligence – the so-called ‘Mozart effect’. This does not surprise me. I would have been astonished if such a thing could be scientifically verified, not just because I’ve met many musicians who were not particularly bright, but because the whole issue of intelligence as something measurable is open to question. Indeed, many areas of psychology itself remain stubbornly beyond proof.

Read the full blog posting here.

Zehetmair Quartet, Wigmore Hall, review

By Ivan Hewett

There are few string quartets I would bet I could spot in a blind test, but the Zehetmair Quartet is one. It’s not an ingratiating sound they make, but it is certainly hyper-alert, every phrase and every textural detail weighed and scrubbed clean of routine.

Combined with their appearance – all in black, with no music stands (the quartet plays from memory) – that sound tells you you’re in for something serious. That quality was especially vivid in Mozart’s slender G-major quartet, written when the composer was only 16. So much of its music consists of beautifully turned rococo clichés laid end to end, but they were so vividly characterised by the players that they seemed weighty and interesting.

After the Mozart came something genuinely dense, the 2nd quartet by the great Swiss oboist and composer Heinz Holliger.

Read the full review in The Telegraph here.

Listen to the 1st string quartet here:

Anne-Sophie Mutter in United Arab Emirates

“Excuse my English,” Anne-Sophie Mutter says with a laugh. “I know it’s rather flowery, but that’s as good as it gets.” As it turns out she speaks it better than I do; her German must be a model of rhetorical control.

Still, it’s clear why, as one of the finest violinists in the world, she might feel her second language ranks poorly as a mode of expression. It is our good fortune in Abu Dhabi that we’ll get to hear her fingers do the talking when she comes to the Emirates Palace to play a trio of violin trios this weekend as part of the Abu Dhabi Classics season.

For now it’s only worth noting that, in music as in speech, Mutter seems to have been reconciling herself to floweriness.

Read the full article in The National here.