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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

Classical honours for Sting and McCartney

By Norman Lebrecht / May 2, 2007

Even by the shameless standards of showbiz, this week’s Classical Brits awards take the biscuit for brazenness. Nominated by national critics (though many of us decline to fill in the form) and voted for by Classic FM listeners, the contest for album of the year boils down to a probable stand-off between two men who cannot read an orchestral score but who – for Brit purposes – are deemed to be admirably classical.

Sir Paul McCartney writes his own devotional tunes in Ecce Cor Meum but sends them out to others for orchestration – which is about the same as leaving Ringo to mix Let It Be, an abdication of textural responsibility. Sting may be sincerely smitten by the dolorous music of Dowland but he lacks, by any measure, the vocal equipment to sustain a singing line – the resultant string of short breaths bearing little resemblance to baroque and early-classical form.

Why, then, are these albums up for a classical gong? Because the music biz knows that classical is supposed to be good for us and earns brownie points at Downing Street. However, since real classical doesn’t sell in great quantities, the industry reckons that pensionable pop stars can pass as classical – well, they’re old, aren’t they? - and pretends that McCartney’s Ecce is Mozart-Lite.

What’s the harm? No damage to the ozone layer, perhaps, but it is an act of cultural vandalism to replace on TV an art that deserves and rewards public attention with the imitative dronings of common celebrities who wish to be remembered for something more than their distant youth.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]


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