It was WWII that put classical music on the map in England. During the war an organization was formed, The Council For Encouragement of Music and the Arts, (C.E.M.A.), which sponsored concerts for the entertainment of the Troops and munitions workers. Later on it was taken over by a department of the British Council. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra were funded together with many smaller classical ensembles. The concerts were well attended and so began the big post war classical music revival which lasted for over twenty years. Then the economy changed, and also peoples tastes, plus there was a huge development in recording technique and television.
Walter Legge founded the. Philharmonia Orchestra in the mid ‘forties and a little later Sir Thomas Beecham founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This meant five Symphony orchestras in London (if the BBC symphony Orchestra is included) fighting for a part of an ever diminishing pie.
Perhaps there was a surfeit of classical music or maybe the rise of rock bands contributed to the diminishing audience also the shortage of discretionary cash plus the proliferation of ipods has affected matters.
For the past few years much of the recording that was done in London has now given way to recording in some of the Eastern European countries where the fees are much less and as I mentioned in Blog #1 of this series technology has developed so rapidly that virtual orchestras replace live musicians in the pit. Despite the doom and gloom that prevails I notice that many concerts still attract full audiences, the reason being, I think, is that these are superbly played and designed to give the classical music lovers not just a concert but a great experience. The old days of giving a Tchaikovsky Symphony, the Grieg piano concerto and the 1812 overture with military band and fireworks may be going out of the window.
The last surviving radio orchestra in North America, the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra was recently axed. I read some comments in the newspapers where it was hinted that the idea behind it all was to recognize the huge ethnic community in Canada and play more ethnic music. We may even see such instruments as pan-pipes, nakers, samisens etc. incorporated into our Western orchestras, who knows what the future will bring. There is certainly an increase in the number of Oriental, Middle Eastern and South Asian artists playing at concerts and on TV in Vancouver, B.C. and very good they are too.
I was in China recently, and interestingly enough I noticed that Western music was burgeoning there. They had several symphony orchestras.
Perhaps in my next life I shall be known as Bob the samisen not Bob the bass!