I’ve been enjoying reading various responses to comments made by Max Hole, the ceo of Universal Music Group International, at the Association of British Orchestras conference towards the end of January. Most seem to have jumped to conclusions about what he said, based on a few quotes. Straw men were raised and dutifully knocked back down, in admittedly interesting and well-reasoned terms. What were off-the-cuff comments have been interpreted as if he were issuing sine qua nons for the survival of the orchestral sector or even classical music itself.
Having been there and heard him speak, however, I found very little to take issue with. He wasn’t calling for orchestras in civvies, laser lightshows or the LSO on ice. His basic point could be summarised as ‘try and think of news ways of communicating with your audience’, perhaps with an added ‘the fact you’ve been doing something a particular way for a while doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the best way of doing it’. Hardly a terrible prophecy, and hardly worth getting hot under the collar about. If there were some specifics you found disagreeable, ill-considered or old-hat, then be thankful that he must earn far too much at Universal to ever consider taking a job at the Arts Council or as head of your favourite orchestra.
The assembled bigwigs seemed to take it with equanimity, anyway. Perhaps Nicola Benedetti, also on the fateful panel, exerted a calming influence. Here’s someone who is shifting units like the good ol’ days while maintaining an unimpugnable artistic integrity, who gives freely of her time and talent to a host of education projects, and who can speak thoughtfully and at length on the nitty gritty of the live and recorded classical music industry ‒ and we’re talking about Max Hole?
You may notice a distinct singing theme to this issue, not least thanks to our interview with cover star Barbara Hannigan. Along with an admiring look at Covent Garden’s new opera plans and a combative one at ENO’s financial state, we’ve also spoken to Sir Peter Moores about his foundation’s incredible 50 years and the round of opera productions it is supporting in one final splurge before winding down. Peter Phillips talks about 40 years at the helm of the Tallis Scholars and, moving away from the voice, we report on the Southbank Centre’s year-long The Rest Is Noise festival and what to expect from The Rite of Spring’s 100th birthday this year. Not enough for you? Good, because there’s more.
As ever, if you have any comments about the magazine, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have any thoughts about an issue affecting the industry, what better place to air it than our letters page?