A monumental voice or simply a monumental moment? The twenty-year-old Otto Edelmann debuted as a bass-baritone in Germany in 1937 and continued his singing career until he was called for duty just three years later. Surviving conditions as a Russian prisoner of war that few ever mentioned thereafter, Edelmann made his way home to a devastated Austria and used his voice to uplift those living in the newly formed Second Austrian Republic. He soon became a leading voice in the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera, where he sang four hundred thirty performances, thirty-six roles and thirty operas and represented Austria a star opera singer in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Milan and New York. When he took his final bow, he dedicated the rest of his life to training young singers at what is today the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna and giving masterclasses. It only make sense that, since 2006, the Otto Edelmann Society was founded in Vienna in his honor. The Society keeps the memory of the late Kammersänger alive by producing concerts that allow young singers to introduce themselves to critical audiences and network with established singers, by hosting discussion rounds about critical issues concerning the classical music industry and by organizing the flagship International Otto Edelmann Singing Competition together with the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna, his alma mater. Let’s speak to Sylvia Saavedra-Edelmann, Managing Director of the Otto Edelmann Society and get to know what happens when a monumental voice meets a monumental moment!
Music unites us, but it also divides us. We unconsciously foster strong associations between music, gender and race. Just close your eyes and think about Beethoven’s Choral Symphony: it celebrates music’s unique power to unite disparate individuals into one universal human family, but how many women do you see? And how many of those women are black? Now think about the blues and, right after, Madonna’s music. In the case of the former, do you see any white men? And of the latter, do you see any Asian men? Which gender and racial profiles seem to belong to each music and which seem out of place? Keep in mind: if you have trouble simply imagining those music outsiders, how daring it must be for an outsider to show up at a concert! Professor Francesca Royster’s new book is a diary-like account of her journey to find belonging in a music world not known for including black women – especially lesbian black women – that of country & western. Her discoveries are at once insightful, exciting and painful. Who knew that Tina Turner used country & western to perform female liberation and independence from male domination? Yet it is reconciliation and not retribution that Royster really wants. In line with the promise of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, she deeply wishes that music’s magic would dissolve the barriers separating her from fellow fans. But, for the time being, she finds her place with like-minded (-gendered and -raced) musicians and resigns herself to attentively listening for the revolutions of the next generation. Come welcome Francesca to our show and she will introduce us to country & western music!
The classical music “industry” is an intriguing one. It is a complex of professionals from many different disciplines working together. Of course, it’s the musicians who perform it and the instrument makers who manufacture and maintain the instruments those musicians perform it on. But don’t overlook the publishers of the printed music “compositions” that make up the concert programs musicians offer, as well as the recorded music publishers whose sounds influence the performance decisions musicians make as they read the printed music notes placed on music stands in front of them. The classical music industry is at once extremely conservative – indeed, musicians are trained at conservatories – and daringly innovative – it was Octavio Petrucci’s reverence for yesterday’s hits that led him publish music notes printed from movable type. So how is the classical music industry currently situated? We hear a lot of concerns coming from professionals working inside it; about the “graying” of classical music audiences generally and, specifically, how mp3 files and music streaming have decimated recorded music profitability, on the one hand, and the Pandemic taking an unprecedented toll on live music profitability, on the other. But we also hear about the unforeseen opportunities these “gales of creative destruction” – as the economist Joseph Schumpeter calls them – offer all those with an interest in classical music. Waves of consolidation have created new industry models, like the one Pentatone, a classical music recording label, now operates as a part of. Pentatone recently forged a unique partnership with two of the largest classical music management companies in the world, all three partners of which are owned by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Sean Hickey, Managing Director of Pentatone, is at the center of the action and he’s coming on our show to discuss all of what’s happening today and what that means for the classical music of tomorrow. Whither, then, are you speeding, O classical music?”