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.

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Leonard Bernstein on the Mystery Behind the Music

Imagine this: you drop onto the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, switch on the TV and see a dapper young man with a baton standing before an orchestra and demonstrating the patterns conductors use to lead music in different meters — two, three, four and five beats to the bar. He directs his players in a few examples, bits of Beethoven’s Ninth and Schubert’s Eighth Symphonies, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” Waldteufel’s “Skater’s Waltz.” Then he ups the ante, showing how these simple gestures, with subtle modification, are used to coax a fluid, lyrical performance; a playful reading; or an urgently dramatic interpretation from an orchestra.

For 48 minutes, this young conductor — Leonard Bernstein, caught on film in 1955 — brings you into the musician’s world, talking about how tempo, dynamics and phrasing express a conductor’s feelings and beliefs about a piece, and how that expressivity affects a listener’s perception of the music. And he offers you a glimpse of his preparation for a performance.

“Take this opening bar of the Brahms First Symphony,” he says, and then conducts it. “There are 55 notes in it, being played by 100 instruments, and the conductor has to know them all, or he has no right to ascend the podium in the first place. And this is only one bar out of 1,260 in this symphony.”

Even with hundreds of cable channels to choose from today, the likelihood of running into a show like this is slim.

Read the full article in The New York Times here.

Music review: David Aaron Carpenter, violist

One of the good things about violists is that they have repertoire nobody else knows about.

David Aaron Carpenter‘s impressive recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Sunday afternoon, presented by San Francisco Performances, offered more than just the spectacle of a gifted young artist coming into his own. It also included some first-rate music that shows up all too rarely on concert programs.

The effect, at least during the first half of the program, was to leave a listener with a distracting embarrassment of riches. Here was Carpenter, joined by pianist Julien Quentin in a performance marked by wonderful fervor and eloquence, and here too were delectable, fascinating pieces by York Bowen and Rebecca Clarke that were probably known only to the hard-core viola aficionados in the audience.

Read the full article on SFgate.com here.

2007 review in The New York Times here.

Premiere at last for Prokofiev's pre-Stalin War and Peace opera

Completed – or so he thought – at the moment of his country’s greatest peril with Hitler’s forces camped in the Moscow suburbs, Sergei Prokofiev’s operatic adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace must have seemed a powerful and patriotic artistic response to the horrors of the conflict engulfing his homeland. But it didn’t work like that in Stalin’s world.

Even in the depths of danger Soviet cultural commissars were alive to the taint of bourgeois sentiment and the composer spent more than a decade revising his score under increasing duress to please his political masters. In the end, dying as he did on the same day as Stalin in 1953, he never lived to see his work performed in its entirety.

Later this month British audiences will be treated to the world premiere of the “de-Sovietised” version of the operatic masterpiece written as Prokofiev intended it when it is performed by The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Scottish Opera at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow before moving to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

Read the full article in The Independent here.