music sales resurgent thanks to 'easy listening' brigade
artists have revived the industry, helping to boost sales
by a million albums, but purists aren't happy. Andrew
years ago the story was of a slump in sales, the classical
Brit awards were being "sexed up" in a desperate
attempt to raise interest and Sir Thomas Allen, the baritone
star of the English National Opera, complained that "wet
T-shirted" violinists were being used to sell classical
the classical music industry has reason to celebrate today
- even among accusations that the music has been "dumbed
down" and crossfertilised with pop - after a yearly
increase in sales of a million albums. The British Phonographic
Industry (BPI) announced yesterday that more than 14 million
classical albums were sold in 2003, grossing £65m
- an 8 per cent increase on 2002.
the revival, the industry can largely thank a teenage
former busker from New Zealand and a Welsh farmer's son.
Hayley Westenra, a pretty 16-year-old singer from Christchurch,
was number one in the charts last year with her record
Pure, which eclipsed Charlotte Church's record for the
fastest-selling debut classical album in Britain.
second highest seller was Bryn, an album by the Welsh
baritone Bryn Terfel, 39, who was born on a livestock
farm in Pantglas, north Wales. Third place was taken by
one of a number of increasingly popular compilations of
classical music - The Number One Classical Album 2003
- by various artists.
top three records sold 1.3 million copies - 9.3 per cent
of sales and the driving force behind the overall sales
increase. Matt Phillips, a spokesman for BPI, said: "The
rise is a result of a combination of young classical talent
coming through backed up with a traditional revival. It's
these three sellers doing really well and a great demand
for compilation records as well."
added: "It's been driven by the emergence of a new
talent in Hayley Westenra. Bryn Terfel's success has been
helped by a well received duet at the Classical Brits
with [Andrea] Bocelli."
like Sir Thomas are unlikely to be impressed by the figures.
Their feeling is that the so-called "crossover artists"
- those who move between opera and pop - should not be
known as classical musicians.
Jolly, the editor of Gramophone magazine said yesterday:
"Hayley is on the borderline of classical music.
Bryn Terfel has some show tunes on his record as well
as classical stuff."
Thomas made his "wet T-shirt" comment in May
2002, and it was thought at the time that he was referring
to Bond, a quartet of attractive young female violinists
known for their sometimes skimpy attire, who were taken
off the classical charts but last year still made a controversial
appearance at the Classical Brits.
Sir Thomas also criticises artists like Charlotte Church
and Russell Watson. He told the Royal Philharmonic Society
that there were "well organised hijackers" taking
over the classical music industry in a "money-grabbing,
PR-led" marketing exercise. He spoke of "pub
tenors" and "sugar coated programming or the
recording of choice bits of easy listening" being
contends that this plague has taken over a "once
respectable and serious profession to the point where
integrity is almost wholly inundated". He said: "We
kow-tow more and more to the mass appeal. We have become
a civilisation in rapid cultural decline ... The idea
of a wet T-shirted quartet where once was the Amadeus
(String Quartet) has me reaching for the seasick pills."
Jolly said classical music had become a lot more about
promotion and about modelling itself on pop in terms of
sales. But he said it was pleasing to see musicians such
as Sir Simon Rattle, the English conductor and music director
of the Berlin Philharmonic, also having great success
with his new album. Traditional classical music was also
having a revival, he said. "It seems for the last
year or two years classical music has been the whipping
boy for the arts," Mr Jolly said.
heard complaints that nobody goes to concerts, nobody
buys records, blah, blah, blah. But in the past two years,
a lot of the big record companies have been doing a lot
of work [rationalising] turning away contracts that were
said most companies now had much smaller rosters and artists
had a much more realistic outlook. "It's much closer
in a way to the pop music model - 'we'll make an album,
we'll go out and advertise it, promote it on radio and
TV'," he said. Mr Jolly said the recent success of
Classic FM was an example of how a resurgence in easy
listening had helped sales.
think the classical industry has taken a very realistic
view and I can't really see why we can't push the boundaries
of what we do, because it's good for the bottom line,"
increase announced yesterday arrests a decline in 2002,
when sales fell by nearly 2.7 million units.
of the top 10 in 2003 were compilations, with titles such
as Smooth Classics - Do Not Disturb, showing the trend
towards relaxation on the home stereo. Most of the compilations
were more traditionally classical, featuring the likes
of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. The singers Andrea Bocelli
and Aled Jones also featured in the top 10.
was "discovered" busking at the age of 11. She
recorded Pure when she was 15 and has since moved to London.
Her debut album sold more than 700,000 copies last year
and made the mainstream top 10 chart.
said last year that she "didn't really understand"
the position of people who did not believe she should
be on the classical charts or that the genre was being
"dumbed down". "Surely more people becoming
interested in classical music is a good thing," she
know of many of my fans who have taken up the violin or
piano because of my records. They would never have taken
an interest in classical music otherwise. How can these
critics possibly see an upsurge of interest in classical
music in any kind of poor light? It baffles me."
was more ammunition at the weekend for those who believe
the arts in Britain are being eroded by image-driven popular
culture when it was reported that the English National
Opera had axed one of the world's leading sopranos from
a show because of her weight.
Voigt complained she had been cut from the lead part in
Richard Strauss's opera Ariadne auf Naxos in June, because
she was too fat. "I have big hips and Covent Garden
has a problem with them," Ms Voight told The Sunday
Telegraph. "Or at least their casting director, Peter
Katona, has the problem and he's made it clear that I
won't be singing in his house as long as he's around,
which is sad."
Voigt, who is reported to weigh between 15 and 20 stone,
said the matter had become a legal issue and if she was
running the opera house she would "want the best
singer for the role whether they had hips or not".
Ms Voigt has been replaced by Anne Schwanewilms.
Royal Opera House spokesman said yesterday: "We felt
Ms Voigt wasn't necessarily appropriate for the production.
making these kinds of decisions it is not just a question
of how someone looks; it is also how they move on stage.
We would absolutely consider her again for another role
- she's a fantastic artist and extremely well regarded."
spokesman said he was not surprised by the rise in classical
music sales. "In terms of opera we are seeing very
good audiences and they are increasing both in terms of
numbers and demographics.
music is more readily available than ever before - in
film and advertising, it's around us all the time and
people hear it and they go away and they buy it."
modern classics to reckon with
pianist acclaimed for his reproductions of the music of
Wagner and Mahler. He has recorded more than 70 versions
of Bach's Goldberg Variations, from straight baroque to
jazz to electronic.
Polish composer who gained fame in 1992 withSymphony of
Sorrowful Songs in 1992. It sold more than 600,000 copies
worldwide, making him the best-selling living classical
composer who came to prominence in the 1980s with his
composition Tabula Rasa. He has been described as someone
who changed the face of classical music in the 20th century.
composer steeped in Greek Orthodox music who hit the classical
charts with The Protecting Veil before reaching global
status with Song for Athene at the funeral of Diana, Princess
advised by Dave Ludlow