Over the last ten years it seems that the average age of concert audiences in London has risen by some fifteen years. In New York the average hair colour at a classical concert is blue. It is estimated that from the Greater London population of some 16,000,000 only 32,000 go to more than two classical concerts a year: about 0.2%. Yet according to record sales, classical music has never been more popular. There are more classical records made and sold now than at any time in the industry’s history.
The reasons for this are complicated. Price is certainly not a concern (a ticket to hear the London Symphony Orchestra costs less than a bottle of sherry). What frightens many away from the concert hall is a worry about other people’s opinions; that they will be laughed at for liking Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or The Planets. The snobbery of the classical world has driven frightened people increasingly into their homes to press remote control buttons safe from the disapproval of the outside world.
Oxford University Press’s four-volume Heritage of Music brilliantly steers away from the exhibitionism and one-upmanship that has plagued classical music for so long. With contributions from many of the world’s top music writers, all of whom seem to have relished the experience of writing them, the final result is an