The conductor Fabio Luisi, music director at Zurich Opera and principal guest at the Met, has issued a personal endorsement of Gidon Kremer’s attack on the machinations of the classical music industry and its manufacture of fake stars.
I present Fabio’s letter without commentary. His views on the British classical industry in particular will be widely supported. Here’s Fabio:
It is all about balancing business, audience reception and art – an old issue, if we think of “Wunderkinder” in the past. But now it is not so much about “Wunderkinder”, more about the managers’ (and audience’s) loss of capacity of discerning between talent, appearance and real musical maturity.
Take singers, for example. Could Jessye Norman have become Jessye Norman without her time spent in Düsseldorf as member of the Ensemble, allowing her to deepen the repertoire and to learn new roles away from the “big” (and dangerous) stages, and even making a pause for learning, refusing to sing opera for five years?
Or conductors: Karajan without having been in Aachen, Kleiber in Stuttgart, Thielemann as coach in Berlin and Bayreuth (and then in Nürnberg as conductor), emerging on the “big” podiums of important orchestras and opera houses relatively late.
We are now experiencing an attitude of “the younger, the better”, insinuating the following message: if they conduct (or sing, or play) with such orchestras, in such opera houses, in TV, on DVD, they must really be geniuses. They are presented as such and the media swallow these PR-strategies, slavishly repeating pre-cooked sentences.
This means profit for PR-agencies, for artist management companies (sorry to say this, Norman – British companies have a lot of responsibility in this) and eventually for promoters and presenters as well.
I don’t blame institutions for being a part (the paying one, actually) in this circus: I probably would act alike, since my priority would be to sell tickets and to have artists in my season whom the public recognise. I blame those who sell as “art” something which is mainly “business”, and those who are not willing to tell (or maybe to see? even worse!) that “the emperor has no clothes”.
We see many young, gifted musicians who reach the most important music places in the world, pushed by managers and sought after by presenters who must constantly offer “fresh meat” to the audience: the next Netrebko, the next Pavarotti, the next Bernstein, the next Rubinstein, the next Oistrakh. They are “the nextes” and they don’t have time to be themselves, to develop to be themselves – many of them will disappear soon (we already have seen how many have disappeared after a couple of CDs, after concerts in Salzburg, Verbier, after productions in Milano, New York or London) although they might have talent and skills for a serious career.
This is the reason I appreciate this wonderful Gidon Kremer letter, because it is fresh, ironical, true and it comes from a real artist which constantly worked on himself trying to improve himself, refusing to be pushed by whomever.