Universal boss slams ‘unwelcoming, elitist’ classical music concerts

21 July 2014, 13:01 | Updated: 21 July 2014, 13:08

Max Hole singles out Royal Festival Hall for criticism in attack on live classical music

One of classical music’s most powerful players has called classical music "rather unwelcoming" and "a bit like an elitist club".

Max Hole, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International singled out the Royal Festival Hall for particular criticism, telling Charlotte Green's Culture Club on Classic FM: "Going off to the Royal Festival Hall and seeing a wonderful concert of music where the lighting was like the accident and emergency unit of a hospital.

“There were no screens to show the musicians up close, the conductor had his back to you, he didn't speak to you. I thought this was all wrong."

Max Hole on the classical music industry


Hole is one of the prime movers behind the Bristol Proms, a concert season aimed at attracting new audiences into classical music, which begins next week and is now in its second year.

The concept of a festival where classical music is presented in innovative ways – utilising lighting, video screens and digital technology to enhance the performance – emerged from Hole’s own dissatisfaction with conventional concerts.

Max Hole on the Bristol Proms


However, Gillian Moore, Head of Classical Music at Southbank Centre - which runs the Royal Festival Hall - questioned Hole's criticism of live music there. 

Moore told Classic FM that the institution is "proud of its large programme of concerts as well as free concerts, events and workshops that present classical music in different ways to a large and diverse audience across all ages and backgrounds".

In recent years, she said, the Southbank Centre has presented seasons of concerts which have included the conductors introducing the music from the stage, and large video screens following artists in close up.