La Victoire (print) by Boizot (drawing) & Gautier l’ainé (engraving)
Philippe Cassard’s introductory mood note to his programme Le Matin des musiciens broadcast on 20 February on France Musique—the French classical music public radio station—was so good that I had to translate it and share the transcript here!
Before I introduce our special guest today, I would like to talk again about something that is going to happen in a few days, as France 3 will broadcast from Bordeaux new auditorium the Classical Music Awards ceremony.
You know this annual family reunion where a small number of regulars (all smiles and purrs) gathers—almost always the same who have their napkin rings and name-tagged chairs, who year after year tirelessly take turns to share the trophies, with a constancy commanding our admiration.
Oh, there may be once in a while and certainly as a result of an unfortunate coincidence, a new head, a face that the viewer would not have already seen 7, 8, 9 or 10 times. But over the years this viewer persuades himself that France counts only one violinist, one cellist, three or four pianists and a single countertenor.
The truth is that what can be likened to a farce, a real misinformation campaign is carried out by a Théodule committee (the phrase belongs to the General de Gaulle) only France knows, a committee self-proclaimed artistic whose members are neither known to or identified by professional musicians. A committee thus composed of the man and the woman on the street—without credibility, without expertise—whose lack of knowledge of the French musical fabric in all its richness and diversity produces every year interchangeable lists that, I must say, create in our profession as much anger (to always feel excluded, put aside, ignored) as affliction in front of so much incompetence.
What to think of the extraordinary judgement demonstrated by this committee, once again this year, in having the great Aldo Ciccolini (aged 87) compete as a beginner in the solo instrumentalist category, when the same Ciccolini received two years ago an honorary lifetime achievement award.
If this committee and the management of the Victoires de la Musique Classique kept ever so slightly abreast of classical music life in France, if these people did their job, fulfilled their mission, aroused the curiosity of the public instead of serving them the same salt-free soup ad nauseam, well, this committee would have been well advised to honour Dominique Merlet, the great artist to which France Musique pays tribute throughout the day today on the occasion of his 75th birthday. …
A few days later, Renaud Machard refered to Philippe Cassard’s outspokenness in an article entitled ‘The Favorite Caciques’, Les Caciques favoris in French (Le Monde, 27 February 2013). He aslo filled in the blanks left by Cassard:
There are several shocking things about these ‘Victoires de la Musique Classique’: the same eternal gang of (less and less) young musicians, belonging to one or two record labels (EMI/Virgin & Universal), who had come to glean or present a trophy and promote their last recording. This gang was denounced by the pianist Philippe Cassard in his radio programme, a few days ago.
Cassard does not give names, but one can do it: Renaud & Gauthier Capuçon, respectively violinist and cellist; Nicholas Angelich, Alexandre Tharaud, Frank Braley (piano); Antoine Tamesti (viola), Emmanuel Pahud (flute), David Guerrier (trumpet & French horn). As luck would have it, the above mentioned are all on EMI Classics/Virgin Classics’ roster and almost all on the artist list of a single agent, Jacques Thélen. Except Gauthier Capuçon, they were all present Monday night…
Apart from a few comments on Twitter during the television show—to regret the furious pace with which musicians followed one another on stage, the lack of contemporary music or the overabundance of classical ‘greatest hits’—not many criticisms were voiced against the 20th edition of the French Classical Music Awards (Les Victoires de la Musique Classique). This is why I found interesting to present here the opinion shared by two respected figures of the French classical music industry.
Renaud Marchard is known for his acute and unforgiving eye and ear yet his informed commentary. I must admit that in the past I have burst out laughing while reading some of his ferociously funny concert or recording reviews. However this time his column was witty but mild.
Philippe Cassard is a distinguished pianist with an international career, an author and a radio producer. I salute his courage in saying publicly what, no doubt, many others must think.
Classical music is scarce on television. And it has disappeared from prime time programmes, except on rare occasions such as this ceremony. Is it a reason not to question the quality of the programme offered?
But more importantly, is it not legitimate to expect musical discoveries: new or lesser known repertoire and a selection of nominees and artists performing at the event that would illustrate the diversity of musicians in France?