Kent Nagano: I’ve seen two generations lose touch with classical music

The incoming general music director of Hamburg State Opera has given a bleak prognosis to Der Spiegel on the future of classical music. The audience has grown old, he warns, and is not being replenished. He offers few remedies. Quotes:




– Nach meiner Erfahrung gibt es bereits zwei Generationen von Menschen, die nie mit klassischer Musik in Berührung gekommen sind.

In my experience, there are already two generations of people who have never come into contact with classical music.

– Wenn junge Menschen heute keinen Zugang mehr zu klassischer Musik haben, woher sollen sie dann wissen, ob sie diese Musik mögen oder nicht?

“If young people today have no access to classical music, how will they ever know if they like it or not?

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  • The Fiends of Radio 3 think that classical music is so precious, that it shouldn’t be wasted on young people. They want to keep it for themselves :((

    • Actually, some of the FoR3 membership are young, believe it or not. Our views about the deterioration of R3 presentation transcend generational demographics.

  • It must be mentioned also that Nagano has done a lot in Montreal to remove layers of dust from the image of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Events such as the “Classical Journey” in the summer, youth concerts, crossover (serious crossover, as well, of course, as some bad) concerts, etc. A few years back, he played Mahler 1 in a beer brewery…

    The OSM is now reasonably cool; there is a lot more to do, of course, but the image is improving. Along with Nezet-Seguin’s dynamic Orchestre Metropolitain, Montreal has two very accessible orchestras.

    • The MSO under Dutoit was never “dusty”. It had incredible programming, varied and interesting. Under Nagano, the MSO has become one of the most boring orchestras in the country.

      Nagano has turned the once international calibre of the MSO into non-stop pops and standards repertoire. It’s no wonder the MSO no longer has a recording contract with Decca or anyone else for that matter.

      • There seem to be more than few MSO/Nagano recordings on Sony, including what looks to be a complete Beethoven cycle. not sure they even did one under Dutoit…

  • Young people in my town can buy classical concert tickets for £5 – less than the price of 2 pints of beer (I was paying £4 for student standbys at ENO in 1994. How’s that for inflation-busting?). Our local youth orchestra auditions 3 times more young musicians than it can take.

    Classical music has never been, and never will be, a mass phenomenon but the reality is that it’s never had more young listeners and participants. So tired of these stale arguments. It’s never going to be 1956 again. So what? Things are better now.

  • I am now located in Seoul S Korea
    How about 119 concerts and recitals Per Month ,not counting opera and other dance productions.
    The amount of young people attending concerts is incredible.You go to a supermarket and you listen to Chopin.Wait to the elevator and Beethoven 9 th is there for you
    In the lobby of Samsung hospital you have a grand piano
    Maybe is time to reflect

  • Fortunately, I find it hard to agree completely with Mr. Nagano. Although some (cough-Radio 3) make it difficult for young people to access classical music, there are also many out there trying to make it more accessible. Walking from university in Cleveland to dinner on a recent Friday, almost everyone I passed on the street was a young student dressed in his/her best finery walking briskly with friends to see the Cleveland Orchestra.

    I hear they are a rather popular attraction near the campus..

  • I was in Iran few years ago and talking with random people about Mozart’s and Beethoven’s symphonies – and about Bizet’s Carmen. For me it was a shock to realize that these young people actually know the European musical heritage much better than what an average person in my country does. A very eye-opening experience (compared to the “Iranians are barbarians” stuff in the media….). Well, I didnt visit the countryside to talk with the lamb shepherds…

  • Beethoven 9 in the supermarket? Samsung’s come out with a hospital?
    What a strange and fascinating country Korea must be…

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