New Yorkers tell soloist: ‘Classical music is so overused, so clichéd’

New Yorkers tell soloist: ‘Classical music is so overused, so clichéd’


norman lebrecht

November 26, 2015

The violinist Philippe Quint took his video out for a stroll in Manhattan. The results of his impromptu survey are sometimes surprising, even shocking. Watch. Think about it.

philippe quint interviews


  • Graeme Hall says:

    What a great quote from Holst at the end.

  • Andrey says:

    Thank you, Philippe for doing that. Now, try again with the next generation, people between 25 and 40. and than once more?

  • John Borstlap says:

    If someone would have gone around in this way in, say, the Paris of 1775, he would get a comparable harvest of ignorance. But today there is less of an excuse given the accessibility and media channels.

  • Ross says:

    Classical music has always been for a smaller niche audience.
    There is a myth that the times have gotten worse or that certain European cities have more classical music lovers. A popular program with a popular soloist can easily sell out 4 shows (of 1500-2000 per concert) in so many big cities. And yes, older people with more free time, are likely to show up.
    Mr. Quint picked a group of young people that really didn’t look the type. If he went to a place where young Ivy League kids hang out, the responses would have been different.
    The sooner the classical world embraces who their audience is and caters to them, the better it will be.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      You don’t necessarily get a superior education from an Ivy League school, just a superior credential.

      • Ross says:

        Yes. You are correct.
        I didn’t mean it literally. Duke grads, Northwestern grads, and UC Berkeley grads, etc can be considered to be part of the group I’m referring to.

  • john says:

    It was always not the younger generation embracing classical music,it was the grown -ups who hat the time for leisure. The younger parents mostly did not have the time and the money for concerts/opera peformances, so maybe they recurred to listening to LPs, later CDs. Today also Spotifiy and and a few others provide music, although in lower quality (squeezed), with poorr metadata and the search for this is tedious. We used to buy music and own it, I still do, and I am proud of it. Streaming is just temporary Access to listen.
    Music has become a utility and the majority does not see the necessity to pay for it. If musicians/performers/music creators cannot earn money, they will not be able to deliver/produce/perform music. It´s as simple as that.
    People have lost the ability to sit and concentrate on listening to music.
    WHAT A LOSS !!!!!! Sending LIKES and WHATSAPP and SNAPCHAT-Messages has become the Passion. What a loss….

    • Alvaro says:

      people have also lost the ability to power their faces, wear wigs for every social event, ride a horse to work, and write letters using a feather and a bottle of ink while adjusting their monocles.

      COME ON MAN. the world moves on and so does culture. THE ARROGANCE that classical music somehow must beat the odds and stay forever and ever until the end of time is delusional.

      Enjoy Beethoven while you still have it.

  • V.Lind says:

    The scope of the ignorance is breathtaking.

  • Victoria says:

    In Moscow (Russia)there are 7 opera theatres (all supported by gov) + Bolshoi (old and new stages) and about 20 concert halls for classic and chamber music. All of them usually booked for 80-100%. Everything depend of tradition. The half of audience of The Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory is a students.

    • Milka says:

      Spare us the bs from Russia . The kids there are just as ignorant as the ones
      displayed in the Quint video. The difference being the US citizen is not in that dreadful state
      of fear as the Russian is in not being thought as cultured, “nekulturny”.Mr Quint knew what answers he wanted and got them.

      • CDH says:

        Spare us the cant. There probably are more kids in Russia interested in serious music because they are easily and widely exposed to it. And, unless the model has changed drastically since the fall of Communism, seats are VERY cheap, at least for students, which makes it practicable to attend, and often.

        While American kids don’t mind forking out ludicrous sums for the band du jour, to which they are constantly exposed on the radio (one of the NY kids made allusion to this situation), they will be less likely to pay the considerably less but still noticeable sums for a music that is entirely unfamiliar to them. Russian kids, who have their rock, pop and hip-hop icons as well, also will be familiar with classical music and can make informed choices. A bunch of kids who have never heard of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart are hardly in the same position.

        As suggested above in several ways, the problem seems to be ignorance rather than hostility. But where on earth do they THINK a concert might be available? They seemed to have no clue. They are clearly being spoonfed pap, and have not developed palates. Or even curiosity.

      • Eddie Mars says:

        How about you spare us *your* BS?

  • Gianmaria says:

    It always boils down to the same thing: the missing link is education. The people that have been interviewed, with a couple of exceptions, do not even know the names of some of the greatest composers of all times. But they do understand one thing: “It relates directly to the heart”.
    I think classical music should be part of education for every single individual, from elementary school to college. Its good effects on the brain development have been proved multiple times. Ultimately, that’s why we are loosing so much audience, because people simply do not know.
    The advertising bit is also something to think about as well as everything else that was suggested (minus the reality show….). However, for me, the key is still in education.
    Of course, Atlanta is going in a different direction. And so is Italy for that matter.

  • Double Concerto says:

    Classical music is always going to have a difficult time in the USA. There is little hope of extending its appeal through government-supported education. It is not supported by the political right which prefers to let the marketplace decide. It is not supported by the political left because it is historically an creative enterprise of dead white males. Most people think of it as something foreign, not connected to our language and connected to an old pre-democratic society. The USA has produced its own musical genres that have travelled worldwide and provide most people with all the musical experience they need.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t islands of interest. In my suburban town the music programs in the schools are very good, lots of kids take lessons, and playing the violin is admired. It is something our community is willing to support. However as teenagers most of the kids will gravitate to music that speaks to the current social/political situation, if they wish to go beyond music for dancing.

  • philippe vandenbroeck says:

    I’ve been pondering this whole issue recently from the vantage point of the symphony orchestra. What drives an orchestra’s artistic and financial success? Here’s a map:

    Suggestions for amendments are welcome …

  • Jansumi says:

    I just went straight to the comments to find my worst fears confirmed. So I’ll just say:
    People talk. Then a flash mob shows up.. And suddenly, appears a rivetted crowd with expressions of joy transforming their faces. I always end up teary-eyed when I watch those things.. Adequate support and exposure are really ‘all’ that’s needed. The music will do the rest..

  • James of Thames says:

    Thank you for a sane, considered, and perceptive response. Classical music in the USA has always been supported by people who love it, regardless of political affiliation. I would dread seeing it become political football.

  • Shakti says:

    I’m really blown away with the ignorance out there. It is breathtaking as someone put it. Our 10 year old has been playing the violin for four years. He wanted to play at 2 years old. He was introduced to it from a Native American Indian that played at a festival. For 4 years he begged for lessons. At 6 we said yes. We have seen a lot of young talent that play classical music.
    My 4 year old started the viola at 2 1/2 years old. He is now 4 and can play pretty good considering how devekopmetslly his hands had to catch up. He knows composers and lots of classical composers. If you ask him he can sing them and tell you who wrote it. He is a natural.
    Parents are the ones that introduce it. Education is secondary. With Pandora music it’s exposed and it’s available. Kids don’t know it if parents don’t encourage it. It’s pretty simple.
    I know there are a lot of young musicians as I have seen many.
    Fascinating interview.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Ivy League colleges do not have a disproportionate amount of classical music lovers. Didn’t anyone watch the video posted last week on this very site with Matt Haimovitzmm playing Bach at Columbia!!!!!???????

    The problem in American classical music is the centralization of all of the arts funding. The large symphony orchestra salaries dwarf those in Europe…perhaps some of that big money could be better served by spreading the wealth around the entire USA to educate children about ALL forms of music from the past…from ancient ritual music to jazz ,soul and the roots of rock and pop.

    Classical music is my favorite kind of music from the 17th century until the early 20th century. I love bebop and funk and the Beatles, too. A well rounded education taught me to find what I like…and I didnt even have the Internet.
    Also, the tv talent shows expose more people to a few classical pieces than all of the orchestras of the world combined. Why you ask? Because people DO like classical music…

  • Ludwig says:

    Classical music in general demands a lot more from its listeners than popular music, which is why it isn’t so popular. Simple!

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    I blame the tyranny of tonality for this response. The sing-song ramblings of Vivaldi to Glass are to blame. No one who has heard the beauty of Stockhausen, Crumb, or Xenakis can accuse it of being cliche. The academy has retreated to the comfort of warmed functional tonality, and this is the reaction it rightly gets. Only when we continue to progress pass the quaint sounds of the triad will opinions change in this regard.

  • Heimcomputer says:

    It’s not their fault if the music hasn’t spoken to these young people the way it’s been presented. If they’d read programs at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, I could forgive them for associating classical music with luxury watches, cruises, and life insurance, and not understanding that “classical” music has been associated with many more interesting things during its long and vastly diverse history.

    A label change would be needed to attract this audience. There have been reality shows about ballet. Particular pieces can also take on a new life through movies, but then can become overused and cliched. Somehow Bach’s G-major cello prelude has become the emblem of a certain mood, but it’s a shame that few people will find the other suites online.

    Unfortunately, there’s still an attitude in the classical community that young people have a duty to be interested in it. Even the idea that the music has a particular right to survive may not be very productive in terms of promoting it. Instead we should look from the young perspective and try to discover what unique and valuable experiences it can offer, when suitably repackaged, that are missing from what they’re currently listening to. Beyond that, it’s a money problem; other genres just have a lot more of that.

  • Alvaro says:

    WAKE UP CALL people who smell like naftaline and go to work on horse carriages.

    The great majority wont like your stuff even if you make it mandatory in schools because the content itself will drive people away. Be happy with what you got.

    For the self-centered !@$#oles that name this people ‘ignorant’ – do you know the background of these people? The indian guy looks like he works in a major corporation, and probably makes 10x the salary you poor self centered #$%tards make.

    Same goes for the kids who could very well be working in a startup and changing the world MUCH MORE than 99.99999999 % of the imbeciles who think the only thing they need to do to be a ‘cultured person’ is to name 5 conductors and 10 composers, and buy a supbscription to the opera.

    Just because he does not know Beethoven it does not mean that the persons are ignorant. One could do the same interviewing in Silicon Valley, home of the most creative and innovative people ON PLANET EARTH and one would find that your Beethoven is as unknown.