Olivier Solanet's transcendent experience with a live musical performance
was good to read about. Isn't this what music is finally all about? To
cite Frank Zappa: "Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch
of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid."
...or so it would seem as one emerges from attending a thrilling musical
In any case, on the other side of the ledger, much as I don't doubt
the excitement of that evening, I'm not sure that the Russians have
any patent on musical thrills. Artists with such abilities lurk almost
everywhere, I daresay. Latvian-Canadian Arthur Ozolins, for one, recently
wowed me musically with a delightfully angry version of Ravel's La Valse,
a sublime Sonatine, and the night's piece de resistance: an astonishing
suite for piano by Talivadis Kenins that I hadn't previously heard.
And the Orion String Quartet did much the same with all six of Bartok's
quartets, to the utter delight of a small but grateful Ottawa audience:
they're New York-based US players, but in this music simply second to
All to say that my experience is that many artists from various backgrounds
are doing a fine job of engaging people with this high art (and perhaps
also to add, banking on their obscurity, that far too few get the accolades
It can alarm, I agree, to notice that most attendees are retired folks,
and that those of us who aren't quite at that age may be a last generation
of any size who hunger for this kind of fare. What often comes to my
mind is: record these events! It's cheap enough, and will at least
provide an archive of the music to behold down the road.
Many other, even better ideas also arise as solutions; musical bodies
should be looking to one another for those that succeed. Plenty of
notions to educate youths about this art are coming from Venezuela and
Latvia, and more modest but as worthy initiatives of all kinds are turning
None of these ideas, to my knowledge, turns on the age of the artists
playing the music, as I think was suggested. Certainly expressing
artistic dislikes would seem anathema to any efforts at audience-building.
Personally, I like Hilary Hahn, for her Bach and Stravinsky and Meyer.
But surely that's another discussion, and should be kept separate.
Except for one thing: she's at least playing concertos by Stravinsky,
Meyer and other recent composers, and persuasively -- unlike so many
other artists, 'stars' who stick to the old warhorses, take few chances,
tailor an image, collect their money and go home ...maybe to come out
and tour that tried-and-true material every so often. Some, of course,
dabble in profitable cross-over -- as if that performed any service to
the life of their art.
These often seem to be the biggest 'names,' and I see them, and the
system to which they belong, as in large part responsible for the lack
of a renewed audience. But, to stick to the affirmative, Hahn at least
figures on the list of artists doing something to generate new audiences:
simply by not regarding classical as the art merely of dead composers.
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