As I travel and work throughout mainland Western Europe I find that there is a real love and understanding for music, which is developed and cultivated from birth. For example, a lot of my work at the moment is in Italy where typically children grow up familiar with the opera world and have – from a young age – an appreciation for classical music. As a result, live music audiences are mixed. In the UK, many orchestras are still trying to develop younger audiences (and by younger, I mean even under 50 years old) while in places where I have worked across the Channel, certainly in Italy, these audiences already exist.
The matter of exposure to classical music and giving people the opportunity to study, listen to and appreciate music at a young age is surely a necessity. I often say that this doesn’t mean arriving at a situation where everybody plays an instrument or everybody listens only to classical music, but exposure to classical music at a young age would at least give people the power to make informed choices. The future of classical music depends on us giving our younger citizens all the options.
The explosion of ways in which we can now consume music, in particular streaming of music, both for free using websites such as Spotify and for nominal monthly fees such as Apple Music, has brought more opportunities for discovering classical music. Even the Berlin Philharmonic (arguably the world’s best orchestra) has its own subscription streaming site to enable viewers to watch concerts live and on demand around the world. This is a fantastic resource and one I use a great deal for pleasure and for study. However, this supplements the plethora of live music performances I attend and is never nearly as exciting as hearing live music and feeling like one can ‘touch’ the sound. You just can’t beat the thrill of hearing an orchestra for the first time, and so that’s why family and schools concerts, as offered by so many venues all over the world, are so valuable.
In mainland Western Europe, the passion for live music is still very much alive and I hope that in the UK too and all around the world, we can never lose touch with this amazing pastime – invoking all emotions in us, sometimes relaxing and at times overwhelming. Music is food for the soul, without which mankind would go hungry.