Rob Cowan: 'Real classical' has been replaced by 'the very best of...'

Share
Related Topics

We are told that classical music is worth a fortune in record sales and that an increasing number of people are using it to relax. But is it is really classical?

The British Phonographic Industry's shortlist of chart-topping compilations gives us some guidance on constructive "further listening". There's nothing new in that. Record companies have been touting "favourite movements from the classics" since the days of 78s.

Then there's sweet-voiced Andrea Bocelli, a sure draw for the kind of listener who would once have been sold on Mario Lanza. But how many Bocelli fans will have taken the cue from various arias to investigate the operas they come from, including at least one that Bocelli has recorded? Not many, I fear.

We're talking "easy listening" rather than "classical", with youngsters such as Hayley Westenra leading the pack.

Ask the average record buyer about the appeal of so-called classical music and they will usually respond along the lines of passive listening, or worse, something that you only "get into" when you're old.

This is no surprise given such sedentary titles asSmooth Classics - Do Not Disturb and The Very Best of Relaxing Classics. What these sober-sounding albums do is plunder major works for tunes, atmosphere and palatable "background".

Having classical music on "in the background" is light years removed from the drama and passion of what listening to "real classical" or "serious" music is about. When Classic FM made a hit of Gorécki's Third Symphony they were promoting the cause of a fine work not a quick-fire round of single-shot "tasters."

I would like to think that John Tavener - A Portrait, released by Naxos to commemorate the composer's 60th birthday, is somewhere lower down on the BPI list, because it uses the compilation idea so effectively: a combination of complete pieces, extras and one or two novelties.

A pianist such as Krystian Zimerman performing a Rachmaninov concerto should top the charts yet we still play safe with compilations. The biggest crime is the prevalent idea that classical music is where you end up after pop has worn you out.

So I offer one or two proposals. First, an album calledDisturb, with its pounding rhythms of Stravinsky, Bartók and Prokofiev. Then there are choruses from Bach.

There are fabulous modern concept albums by Uri Caine, Heiner Goebbels, Tavener and Pärt. Not all these names are widely known, but they could be.

All it needs is a fresh route of access and the next BPI Top Ten could indeed be "real classical" music.

Rob Cowan

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Deputy Editor's Letter:

Independent Voices, Indy Voices Rhodri Jones
A couple stand in front of a beautiful cloudy scene  

In sickness and in health: It’s been stormy but there are blessings in the clouds

Rebecca Armstrong
Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor