Mention the words ‘classical music’ and one immediately thinks of Last Night at the Proms, formal dress and high society.
But award-winning British-Argentine composer, concert pianist and conductor Polo Piatti is on a mission to make classical music more accessible to the masses.
Hastings-based Polo has also released a new album on CD called Sentimental Journey, with music conducted, composed and performed by him.
“A new type of contemporary classical music is needed by our society today, works that satisfy people’s hearts and I endeavour to do exactly that,” he says.
“People like music they can feel, because it does them good.
“Every type of music is usually valid on its own merits. However, I personally prefer to concentrate on music I consider to be tuneful, beautiful and harmonious.
“For more than 100 years, classical composers have concentrated in either one of these directions.
“Some composers created works that appealed to the emotions, while others decided to concentrate in their own agendas, creating works that just didn’t.
“This is the cerebral type of classical music that has prevailed for many years now.”
Polo believes many people today don’t dare criticise music they don’t like in case they are viewed as ‘musically ignorant’.
He dubs this phenomenon the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome’.
“People have started to believe that you need to ‘understand’ new music to appreciate it, something I consider to be totally ridiculous,” he says.
“That phenomenon has gone so far now in western culture and organisations that are supposed to support new music and living composers, that they now exclusively support what they call ‘avant-garde’, but nothing else.
“Music that has universal appeal is now considered ‘antiquated’ by most contemporary critics.
“Because of this, and of what is being generally thought at conservatories and academies around the world at present, very few young people compose tuneful music any longer.
“The terrible result of this fact is that in just a few generations, classical music as we know it will just disappear forever, unless we try to do something about this.
“I and many of my colleagues writing conventional classical music today are quite desperate about this state of affairs where so-called ‘innovation for its own sake’ reigns supreme.
“If you don’t write something that’s incomprehensible and perhaps ugly or shocking, you are not to be taken seriously, and you won’t get any support from anyone, apart from audiences, that is.
“The ridiculous thing is audiences love tuneful classical music, whatever the institutions and the critics say or do.”
In the past few years, the pianist has set up three projects in 1066 Country to try to make classical music accessible to all.
Polo started Hastings Sinfonia (www.hastingssinfonia.org), in 2012.
“This orchestra is led by London conductor Derek Carden and performs not only classical works that are popular and loved by everyone but also music written by living composers that took the conscious decision to create works that are ‘nice to the ear’.”
Polo also founded the International Composers Festival (www.composersfestival.com), which saw more than 200 composers and musicians from around the world come to Hastings and Bexhill last year.
“The festival is a unique platform in that it supports and promotes melodic and tonal classical music created by living composers from around the world,” Polo explains.
“The festival is now known for being so different and, at the same time, so conventional. We have organised three festivals already and they have become more and more successful every time.”
ClassicUs Salons (www.classicusmusic.com), set up by Polo, are informal events, which take place every first Tuesday of the month, from 6-8pm, at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Marina, St Leonards.
It is open to everyone interested in the classical music being created today, while enjoying pieces by attending composers who talk about their works, motivations, and experiences.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Polo started piano lessons aged three and became a successful concert pianist and classical improviser in his youth.
At the age of 12 he was accepted at the Conservatorio Nacional in Buenos Aires, from which he later graduated with distinction. He left Argentina at an early age to pursue an international career.
The inspiration behind Sentimental Journey dates back to 2012.
“I was asked by my friend and colleague Nobuya Monta to write a new work for piano and orchestra to be premiered in his home town of Osaka in Japan,” Polo says.
“It was suggested to me I should maybe write something a bit more intellectual and cerebral rather than melodic and emotional, the reason being that there might be a danger my style of music would not translate so well into a very different, more reserved culture.
“Since I didn’t agree with this assumption I decided to conduct my own personal experiment and do exactly the opposite.
“I would compose extremely emotionally charged pieces to try to see what the reaction would be.
“I wanted to find out if emotions can cross country and culture boundaries and if, carried by music, they would be experienced in the same way. And so my Sentimental Journey orchestral suite was born.”
The suite was premiered in November 2012 and received a positive reception.
“In summer 2013, the musicians who had premiered the work in Japan decided to perform the suite together with Hastings Sinfonia orchestra at the International Composers Festival in Hastings,” he adds.
“At the beginning of last year, I started to look for the right orchestra to record the work. In the end I chose the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and we recorded it in Prague in the autumn of the same year.
“Numerous people have asked me why I called my suite Sentimental Journey. For me, the word ‘sentimental’ has always been positive and beautiful. For me, it describes that wistful, nostalgic, bittersweet feeling certain memories can evoke.”
Polo said Sentimental Journey was an ‘emotional voyage across different countries, diverse cultures and states of the heart’.
“It touches upon my personal experiences, my youth in Argentina, my travels around the world, the incredible people I have met along the way, the situations I was fortunate to experience,” he smiles.
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