Classical music snobbery strikes the wrong chord | Classical music

In his praise of the Guardian for covering the proms, it was disappointing to see Colin Bradbury use the outmoded distinction that classical music is “real” music in contrast with popular music (Letters, 31 August). That was the view when I was at school in the 1960s, when one teacher said to us: “What you’re listening to is rubbish. This is good. Listen to it.” What self-respecting teenager wouldn’t revolt at such a command? It prejudiced my view of classical music for many years.

The more enlightened teacher of today embraces all kinds of music, and teenagers can often find their way through pop music on to the classics. I made sure that the music in the car on our family holidays mixed the Beatles and Human League with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and I was delighted when my 12-year-old daughter asked to listen to “that nice piece of music you played last time we drove through this forest”. Beethoven, Mahler and Sibelius are frequent companions in my car these days, but so are Del Shannon, Walter Trout and Dua Lipa. It’s all music, Mr Bradbury.
Ron Fosker
Witham, Essex

Much as I admire Colin Bradbury as a musician and agree with him about the Guardian’s neglect of classical music, his defence of real music, echoing that of real ale is unlikely to chime with many readers. The diversity of output that we normally include under the classical umbrella emerged from the music of the Christian church, which had, uniquely, codified music through early notation. Further development of notation provided the opportunity for music to evolve into a kaleidoscope of expressive forms. Many centuries of evolution and divergence have brought us a vast body of music, reflecting our complex history and expressing countless cultural identities. It is also a false equivalence for Nigel Turner (Letters, 1 September) to claim that it is another genre alongside ska, pop, samba, bhangra or R&B. Alas, music journalism seems to reinforce this crass categorisation routinely.
Paul Copas
Brentwood, Essex

Maybe it was a mistake to describe classical music as real music rather than use Nicola Benedetti’s description of it as “long-form” music, as it distracts the reader from the real point, that of its neglect by newspapers. Classical music is not only “favoured by the European ruling classes”, as Nigel Turner put it, but loved by many people of all classes and ages. And what’s more, all moods are to be found in classical music, including “fun”.
Marie Paterson
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

The remit of the Proms is to explore what might be called western art music of the past 400 years. It does this superbly and with more than a nod to the music of other genres and cultures. There are festivals devoted to jazz, rock, pop and folk. As far as I can tell, they include no classical music. This is fine. I can’t understand why other standards should be applied to the Proms. Classical music is not posh. Prom concerts are not posh. The Proms allow anybody to access the very finest classical musicians for around £7. Fifty years ago, as a working-class boy, Prom concerts opened up a world of cheap and wonderful music. All being well, it will continue to do so for anybody with an open mind and ears to hear.
Paul Michell
Bristol

Who could disagree with Colin Bradbury when he says that arts coverage of classical, or real music, plays second fiddle to that of pop music. This can often be proved by comparing obituaries. When David Bowie died, the Guardian’s tributes ran to several pages. However, Pierre Boulez, a dominant postwar figure in classical music who died in the same week, received much less attention.
Alastair Mcleish
Edinburgh

Although I agree with Nigel Turner that it is incorrect to claim that western classical music is real music as opposed to other forms, what it can claim is to be able to reach human feelings and imagination in a manner very different from other musical forms. It can be appreciated by any class of people, as I have always found during my long career as a classical musician and teacher.
Luciano Iorio
London

I was amused to hear from Nigel Turner that western classical music is the favoured form for the “European ruling classes”. I’m afraid that in my 33 years in the BBC Symphony Orchestra I didn’t meet many of those at our concerts. They were usually much more at home at pop music festivals. I reckon that if he were to try joining the prommers sometime (and not just on the last night), he might not only enjoy the real thing, but find that there’s a lot more fun in a Haydn symphony than in a pop song.
Colin Bradbury
Ealing, London

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