I’ve been trying to prepare my mind for tomorrow’s BBC recording of a discussion between me and fellow pianist James Rhodes for Radio 4’s Between Ourselves programme (to be broadcast on April 26 at 9.00 and again at 21.30). James has found a way to bring classical piano music to large numbers of new listeners, partly through sheer enthusiasm for the music, partly through clever use of marketing and social media. What he’s done has some parallels with what my group Domus was doing in a lower-tech way in the 1980s, especially when we had our portable concert hall and used it to present informal concerts, which we deliberately set up to make the audience feel as comfortable as possible. Our audiences were a lot smaller than the ones that James now plays to, partly because in the early 1980s there was no easy way of getting our message out to lots of people simultaneously.
Apart from that kind of thing, however, I feel that today’s climate may be more favourable to introducing new kinds of music to new kinds of listeners. So many musicians have been able to reach large audiences almost without leaving their own home – by putting recordings on their websites and Facebook pages. I also feel there’s a growing awareness in the music-loving public of having been manipulated by the movers and shakers behind the pop music industry. People are looking around for new and genuine impressions, or so I feel. And of course James is right to forget the word ‘classical’ and just tell his audiences that this is beautiful music which just happens to have been written 200 years ago. It wasn’t called ‘classical’ at the time!