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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Singer condemns classical 'hijackers'
Sir Thomas Allen
Sir Thomas (right): Denounced "money-grabbing" acts
One of the UK's leading opera singers has launched an attack on populist classical musicians like Bond and Charlotte Church, accusing them of "hijacking" the style.

Sir Thomas Allen said artists and producers who got attention for their image as much as their music were leading the public to think they were the best that classical music had to offer.

Bond
Sir Thomas' ire was aimed at acts like Bond
He warned that such artists are threatening the integrity of the profession, making it mediocre and turning it into a "money-grabbing, PR-led" exercise.

The targets of the international baritone's attack say they are bringing a wider, younger audience to an area often seen as stuffy and boring.

"We have undoubtedly become a civilisation in rapid cultural decline," Sir Thomas said at the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards.

"Sugar-coated programming, or the recording of choice bits of easy listening, is a plague and has taken over a once respectable and serious profession to the point where integrity is almost wholly inundated," he said.


The idea of a wet T-shirted quartet where once was the Amadeus has me reaching for the sea-sick pills

Sir Thomas Allen
"And I'm sick and tired of hearing of those performers who talk of it as their life's work to bring culture and the classics to a wider public as though they are a band of nursing sisters seeking to restore a terminally-ill patient."

He said there was more integrity in a few bars of Beethoven, Schubert or Mozart than in a hundred lifetimes of artists who say they are trying to modernise classical music.

"The idea of a wet T-shirted quartet where once was the Amadeus has me reaching for the sea-sick pills, or even just retching," he said.

Violeta Urmana
Violeta Urmana: Praised for "vocal beauty" of her performances
Sir Thomas, who has previously hit out at some classical stars for "dumbing down", gave the keynote speech at the ceremony at London's Dorchester hotel.

Among the prizes handed out was singer of the year, which went to Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana.

She was commended for her performances in Parsifal at London's Royal Opera House and Verdi's Requiem at London's Barbican.

Channel 4 won the society's radio, television and video award for its film biography of the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, The Miles Davis Story

And the BBC's Scottish Symphony Orchestra also received top honours. It won the award for the best large ensemble while the orchestra's Osmo Vanska won the conductor's award.

The Miles Davis Story
The Miles Davis Story won Channel 4 a top award
The RPS music awards were founded in 1989 to recognise outstanding contributions in the field of music in the UK during the year.

Urmana has performed all over the world and won several international awards in the last decade.

The RPS praised her "for the extraordinary authority and vocal beauty of her performances" of her London roles.

Channel 4 was praised for making what the society considered to be the first major authoritative film about Miles Davies.

The BBC's Scottish Symphony Orchestra was honoured for its "commitment to classical and contemporary music all over the UK".

 Peter Eötvös
Peter Eotvos' award-winning work premiered in Edinburgh last year
It added that in 2001 its chief conductor Vanska - with the orchestra since 1996 - had given a "series of consistently excellent performances, particularly in the works of Sibelius and Nielsen".

The awards were handed out by the legendary Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland.

The award for the year's best large-scale composition went to Peter Eotvos' opera Three Sisters.

The opera was premičred at the Edinburgh Festival in 2001.

See also:

18 Apr 01 | Music
Bond quartet hit US high note
16 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Classical chart bans quartet
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