Despite the fact that the cantonal subvention for the Zurich Opera House is roughly eight times the total budget for all other cultural endeavors combined or that grand projects like the new glamorous Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg are still popping up, the genre is in deep dodoo. The problem according to Berthold Seliger is manifold: The repertory is frozen in ritualistic repetition, it trusts the tried and true over innovation. Fundamentally interpretative, the genre is caught in a straightjacket of its own making, the majority of its current audience cannot escape the dubious distinction that it’s elitist and actually prefers to be. Originally created for everybody it was egalitarian music, appreciated by all classes. Perhaps also because the artform originated and transformed from folk music and religious hymns. In Klassische Musik, and one could assume, the word «class» was subsequently associated with upper class, inadvertently signaling an exclusivity that today proves to limit its appeal.
A conundrum for which Berthold in his book «Klassikkampf. Ernste Musik, Bildung, Kultur für Alle» (Serious Music, Education, Culture for Everybody), presents fine insights and solutions on how to bring it back to all peoples, insights that are carried not the least by his passionate love for Klassische Musik. Education is key. Among the many points he’ll be elaborating on are «The Principle of Dire Straits» vs «The Principle of Beethoven», he pleads for a clear differentiation between classical music and musical entertainment and firmly believes that the art form has to rediscover its initially classless core to find its way back to fresh appreciation and renewed love from a wider audience. A shot of populism for Klassische Musik? Maybe, but it’s the kind you can appreciate.