Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Great Debate: How valid is ‘Crossover’ Classical Music?

A clearly discomforting feeling overcomes me when I scan the shelves in the classical music sections at music stores.

Where at one time, you could gorge yourself on several legendary recordings of the standard repertoire as well as new recordings of some contemporary compositions, we are increasingly faced with a fairly stripped down catalogue of core classical music. This is not simply on account of shrinking shelf space for classical music at major music retail chains.

What is alarming is that an increasingly large proportion of this limited shelf space is being hijacked by recordings of artists such as Andre Rieu, Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins, Hayley Westenra, Josh Groban, Russell Watson, Charlotte Church, Il Divo, Amici Forever, Sarah Brightman and others in that ever-growing stable of what we now call the “crossover” category.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing to stop these “crossover” stars from making a few million dollars for themselves on the strength of surging sales of their obviously well packaged and well marketed albums. After all, nobody is pointing a gun to your head when you decide to pick up a crossover album. It comes down to free will. And fortunately for this category, a large number of listeners are exercising that will and shelling out the money to make this category the fastest-growing category in classical music recordings by a mile.

While I have personally enjoyed some crossover music of the past and present and am thrilled to see some listeners who would typically not have anything to do with Bach, Beethoven or Mozart, becoming fans of classical hits, there are some reasons why this trend (or should we say phenomenon) needs to be analyzed in greater detail.

My next two posts will take a “For” and “Against” stance to crossover classical music. So please join the debate!

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