Ross: Why do we hate modern classical music?

Posted on: November 29, 2010

In Monday’s (11/29) Guardian (London), music critic Alex Ross writes, “A full century after Arnold Schoenberg and his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern unleashed their harsh chords on the world, modern classical music remains an unattractive proposition for many concertgoers. … the problem is widespread.” Ross contrasts this with the art world: “On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art, I was struck by a poster at the entrance: ‘Belong to something brilliant, electrifying, radical, curious, sharp, moving . . . unruly, visionary, dramatic, current, provocative, bold.’” Some orchestras are changing the situation: “Beginning in 1992, Esa-Pekka Salonen gave the Los Angeles Philharmonic a bolder profile…. Youngish crowds of 1,000 or more show up for the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series. … Alan Gilbert, who took over as the new York Philharmonic’s music director last season, has had startling successes with such rowdy fare as Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Varèse’s Amériques, and … Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft. Veteran observers were agog at the sight of Philharmonic subscribers cheering Lindberg’s piece, which contains hardly a trace of tonality and requires the use of discarded car parts as percussion…. For too long, we have placed the classical masters in a gilded cage. It is time to let them out.”

Posted November 29, 2010