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The Lebrecht Weekly


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

Classical music goes clubbing

By Norman Lebrecht / February 13, 2008

A new music club opens tonight in Mayfair, an all-evening affair for 70 guests combining live performance, proper social intervals - not the snatched 15 minutes of regular concerts – and a live DJ mixing tracks from recent releases. Cool, or what?

The Harmonic Club, meeting every other month at the Arts Club in Dover Street at £10 a head, is the brainchild of Steve Abbott, an artist manager who masterminded the BBC’s widely derided Classical Star and looks after the songstress Hayley Westenra and the pianist Lang Lang. Abbott is one of a breed of para-classical promoters of youth and beauty. Tonight’s performers are the fetching soprano Daneille de Niese and the wide-eyed Lithuanian violinist Diana Galvydyte.

Yet, for all the glitz and flying turntables, there is both precedent and merit to the culture of classical clubs. Orchestral life in London began in the Napoleonic wars with a philharmonic society that met privately to try out new symphonies and wound up commissioning Beethoven’s ninth. The late quartets were first heard in the home of a production manager of the Times newspaper.

In Vienna, a century later, Arnold Schoenberg formed a Society for Private Musical Performance where invitation-only audiences heard new works and arrangements, including an atonally tinted set of Strauss waltzes.

What music needs now is more such start-ups – away from the strict rules of public funded institutions and back into the private domain where the art becomes intimate, and sounds new. And the idea is spreading fast: in Chicago next week a new opera, Reagan's Children, will have its run-through at a rock club, the Martyrs Pub, bookended by electronic music sets from a professional DJ.

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



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