on the classical music glut

Posted by jwsadmin on January 22, 2015

To date there has been absolutely no recognition of the very obvious problem - that there is too much classical music. This oversupply exists because:
1. Demographics and cultural tastes have changed.
2. New technologies have made recorded classical music available anywhere and anytime.
3. Supply has been concentrated on major metropolitan areas and a narrow band of repertoire.

-- "Classical music must go on a diet to survive"

Well, keep in mind I'm writing from America, where we don't have the glut of a dozen orchestras within 100 miles. Here in DC, I have access to 2 (outside of universities) - the NSO and Baltimore, and that makes me rather fortunate. Others have access to only one and they're faltering for lack of funding (Atlanta, Detroit being the most public about it. Minnesota, too).

The glut of recordings you mention does lead me to one other note. You say "there is too much classical music" but I might consider a clarification: there is to much of *the same* classical music. (This has the counter-caveat: audiences aren't as likely to attend concerts with too many unknown pieces, but that's a discussion already had).

In particular in recordings, this bothers me greatly.

I don't need another Beethoven cycle (glaring specifically to MTT's SFO, who wonderfully perform contemporary music but on record that talent is lost with the management's desire for another 'cycle'). Nobody really needs another Beethoven Cycle. How many Mahler cycles are in progress, including Gergiev's and now Dudamel? Do I need another Planets (I'm up to 11 recordings, thanks to various low-priced conductor compilations like Karajan, Stokowski, and Previn)?

How much other music could be played, recorded, enjoyed, that won't be because of all of the resources being spent on "yet another cycle"?

I look at the reviews and the ads in BBC Music and constantly see the same names come up. I jump at the moment of seeing a name I never saw before, and race to wikipedia and amazon to find out more.

This is a reason I generally have enjoyed Rattle's time with the BPO. While he has released plenty of standards (including 3 more Mahlers, Fantastique, the Nutcracker, and a new Rite), he has also released a lot of music that isn't nearly as well known, including Dvorak Tone Poems, a brilliant Messiaen piece, some lesser known Debussy, the Stravinsky Symphonies, and an interesting completion of the Bruckner Ninth.

Maybe I'm weird. I probably am. But the weird are more willing to buy music than not-so-weird these days, who are more content with Spotify's business model of "here, we'll buy the CD once and share it with 2.7 million of our closest friends".

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