Classical music lives on because of the artists who dared to be different. They challenged the status quo and broke down the walls their predecessors built. However the payment that comes to those who take these risks is their reputation, the respect their community gives them only to take it back. Many living composers have been blamed for the death of classical music while many dead composes grow the genre. Or do they? It might be worth taking a look at why a dead composer’s music, the music that is the force of the genre, may be killing off the genre slowly.
Imagine asking a stranger to name three dead composers. Beethoven, Mozart, Bach. Easy. Now ask them to name three living composers. What we don’t hear are the names Philip Glass, John Corigliano, or John Adams. I’m sure there are many reasons why their names aren’t brought up but the one that should be most obvious is that performing the music of dead composers takes the opportunity away for newer works. It’s not balanced. I just took a visit to the LA Phil’s upcoming concert schedule. For the upcoming season the names I see are Hindemith, Haydn, Mozart, Schoenberg, Mozart again, Beethoven. Beethoven has his 1st and 3rd piano concertos in the same night, a concert succeeding a performance of his 2nd piano!
The old masters sell tickets, I get it. But is it too much to ask that a living composer be put on the program? I just want to feel something novel. I want to witness the next chapter in classical music performed in a world class concert hall. I want to observe the audience’s and, if present, the composer’s reactions. I want to take part in criticism, debates, praise. The world deserves it. If you are one to want to view the continuation of classical music and believe that you are half as passionate as Beethoven was about this art ask yourself if Beethoven would prefer an oversaturated world of his music at the cost of sacrificing the genre his music helped build.