Supported by generous help from the Turnovsky Endowment Trust

The pecuniary appetite for contemporary music

By , 03/07/2009

Recently the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra thought of a brave idea to get a big audience to a work they expected to be rather cold-shouldered, on account of the reputation of its composer.
The orchestra had programmed Schoenberg’s huge Gurrelieder, which
Wellingtonians will recall in a wonderful performance at a festival ten years or so ago. They offered a money-back guarantee. Sceptics wondered whether there wouldn’t be a lot of people who would claim a refund, regardless, to get a freebie. But the promoters asserted that their audiences were not like that.
A commentator in a British music magazine wrote that his heart sank when he heard the remark “I know what I like and I like what I know”, as it suggests a premature death-wish, “Death is nature’s way of telling you to stop exploring music” [or anything else], he says. “Why pull up the draw-bridge and block out the new?”
Richard Morrison went on the suggest that, in these risky times when many musical bodies are walking a tightrope between the red and the black, let there be reciprocity to the money-back deal: “If a concert sends us out into the night with our spirits exhilarated, as hundreds of concerts do, why not whiz back to the box office and buy 10 tickets for the next five concerts?”

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