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Swan Song or Song and Dance?
Perspectives from a Pianist and an Audience Member
Part III

As we continue our series on struggling classical ensembles, is checking in with leading figures in the classical world to get their thoughts on the state of the arts. This week we have views on the state of classical music performance from the talented pianist Chantal Stigliani and J.H. Jacobson, author, micro surgeon, and devoted classical music fan.

Chantal Stigliani
Paris-based concert pianist and founder of several workshops for introducing children to the arts

My opinion is simple: Concert organisers, producers, opera companies, and, at times, the artists themselves are not at the service of the art but only of the business. Now, I know that the quality of the art bears no compromise. It must be as near to perfection as possible. Today a soloist has to be able to cross the ocean, play a concerto of Mozart, the next day play two of Ravel, two days later one of Tchaikovsky and finish his turn with a recital wherein Schumann, Barber, and Prokofiev must happily coexist. The public attends these concerts expecting the same emotion as that which one finds in the old recordings of Kempft, Furtwangler, or Casals. These three quoted names are of artists in whose lives art was, primarily, the expression of their inner feelings. In opera, the visual aspects are sometimes more important than the composer and the singer. Due to aesthetic concerns, the singers are constrained to sing in costumes or positions that hinder their expression. As this is not normal, the public often feels a sense of frustration, and concludes with the question, "Why is the music suffering?" I think that the public awaits something truer, more authentic. The proof is that classical music today is becoming less interesting to the public, who are leaning more toward the contemporary, the "living" music. The public looks for new sensations. Baroque music, for example, and its commercial methods lent more to the atmosphere of the day than to true musical direction. Consider the eternal Vivaldi, Albinoni, and Telemann, who have succeeded in dethroning Bach or Monteverdi! The relationship between the art, the artists, and the public is deteriorating. If the organisers are more understanding, they will protect the interpreters by giving them the liberty to breathe, to ponder, and to live intimately with the art that they serve. The art expresses itself from inside, and one must not offer to the public any substitute for emotion.

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