Matthew Barley/Cellist

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.


Reply to Lebrecht review of Classical Star

See Norman’s article at

Dear Norman,
Thank you for the attention you have given Classical Star in your error-strewn online music review.
The point of a competition is, of course, to find a winner, but the point of this one is also to educate, which seems to have eluded you entirely. The tone you mistakenly identify as PC counter-elitist dumbing down, is in fact the tone of a very exciting artistic, educational and ground-breaking process that I directed with a group of passionate, musical, and very enthusiastic youngsters.
Think about it for longer than it takes your cynical fingers to whack out another attack; there simply is no other competition that actually teaches its participants, let alone in the exciting and innovative way we do. These activities centre on private practice and lessons from excellent specialist teachers, and range outwards to improvisation skills, physical awareness, public speaking and performance. These are not skills that many classical musicians possess, and while some of them came naturally to musicians, for instance, like Barenboim, Bernstein or Previn, many others are intensely grateful for the chance to learn.
Far from my intoning a PC mantra (is declaring some of your colleagues boring really that PC?), it is a reality that I perceive about the profession that I am a part of (and you, the apparently omniscient onlooker, are not). We need to open up much more, and this programme helps that process, as the scores of enthusiastic emails I have received from musicians would indicate. It also helps to educate and inform the public about classical music, who plays it, and how they learn it, and it’s really hard to believe that you cannot see that.
While your pejorative description of the judges is of being image-conscious, the adjective you use to describe my wife, is ‘lustrous’. This presumably refers to her image. Hypocrisy?
An intelligent way to judge a contest is by asking its participants what they gained from the process. We are down to the last three for the final next week (why not come along?), and so far the overwhelming response we’ve had is that we have given them a very extraordinary educational experience at the academy in summer. “The musical highlight of my life” to quote a guitarist you correctly identify as being sensible.
You say the series will be peripheral to anyone with a serious interest in music. Far from it. This series accurately reflects much of what is happening in the vigorously beating heart of a changing profession. Changes that show just how swiftly you are being left behind. Get with it, Norman – you’re out of touch. And wrong.
Your errata:

– The programme will run for 5 weeks, not 6.
– I did not say “I am looking for an edge of arrogance” let alone in the context that you place it of implying it’s the main quality I’m searching for. I said that an edge of arrogance is useful – as someone practically made of the stuff, you should recognise this.
– It was a 60-minute episode, not 50-.
– Abbott did not sign Benedetti to her record deal.
– Abbott did not organise the record deal for the eventual winner.

Pretty poor journalism.
Glad to see you are planning to watch the next episode with a Lemsip in hand – it may help to clear your woolly head.
With best wishes