The head of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Helga Schmidt, has asked Zubin Mehta to be the next music director, replacing Omer Meir Welber, whose term is about to expire. Valencia is broke and losing most of its musicians. Schmidt is appealing to Mehta for charity.
In an interview with the FA today, Mehta despairs of the aging European audience. The best hope for classical music, he says, is China.
Q: Are you saddened by the fact that there’s a lot of grey hair in the
audiences of classical music concerts?
ZM: “That’s not the case everywhere. In Europe, it’s true that a large
proportion of the audience is older. A lot of people become interested
in classical music only when they’re older. But in Asia, there are a
lot of young people in concerts. I recently conducted in nine cities
in China and I only saw young faces in the concert halls there.
Q: Why do so many listeners reject modern music?
ZM: “Classical opera and the established works really do have a wide
audience in Europe and in Germany. Performances of Italian opera are
always full and Strauss’ Rosenkavalier is usually sold out. People
really don’t seem to like to listen to modern music. Nevertheless, I
don’t ‘spare’ audiences modern works. In my concerts in Israel, there
is always something new. You have to give young composers a chance to
have their pieces heard. We’ll see after 20, 30 years what remains. It
was no different in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Q: Are many of the rituals of the concert hall outdated?
ZM: No, I don’t think so. We’re successful. The concert halls are
full. I don’t see any empty seats in my concerts. We have three
world-class orchestras in Munich. They are all crowd-pullers.
On children’s concerts:
ZM: “Children are like sponges. They soak everything up. You can see
that in how easily they learn languages. It’s the same with music.
Children absorb it very quickly.”
Q: Should children start learning to play an instrument at an early
ZM: “Very early. Then you can see if a child has talent or not. Not
everyone need play an instrument. Some can just listen. But if a child
has talent, then we have to make sure that they can develop their
abilities. But over-ambitious mothers can do a lot of damage here.”
Q: How important is singing at school?
ZM: “It’s the basis for everything. Unfortunately, so many schools
have stopped singing. Children should sing from the very first class
Q: There are a lot of first-class orchestras in Germany. Is this a
ZM: “No. It’s not a luxury. Standards have risen in Germany. Earlier,
only large cities had really good orchestras. But now there are
excellent ensembles even in medium-sized towns. There’s been a similar
development in the United States as well. There are no longer only
five, but 20 world-class orchestras there, because the training is so
good. Investing in music schools and orchestras is a good investment.”