Top violinist's free digital download targets classical elitism
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
Tuesday January 8, 2008
First there was Radiohead's honesty box album with its track-stopping pay-what-you-please strategy. Now one of Britain's leading classical performers is going one step further by offering her next recording as a digital download free of charge.
Tasmin Little is in the world's top league of solo violinists, regularly attracting rhapsodical reviews. She will next week make her first new recording in four years available for nothing to anyone with computer access.
Little said she wanted to bash down her art form's reputation as elitist. "Classical music, for some reason or another, has this reputation that you need a certain kind of education to listen to it, you need to be a certain colour or live in a certain place and I'm a bit fed up with that. I wanted to take away any possible barrier and see if it makes a difference."
Little also hopes her recording, The Naked Violin, will be educative as well as enjoyable, and has recorded spoken introductions to the pieces to give technical and musical insights. It will consist of three very different unaccompanied works: Bach's mesmerising Partita No 3 in E Major; a Polish folk music-inspired piece from 1984 by the British composer Paul Patterson, Luslawice Variations; and Sonata No 3 "Ballade" written in 1924 by the Belgian violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe.
It will also provide the opportunity to hear two of the world's finest violins. Little has recorded the Bach using her own 1757 Guadagnini while the other two pieces are performed with the "Regent" Stradivarius of 1708, loaned by the Royal Academy of Music. Little said she wanted to be as accessible as possible and chose the pieces so that new and familiar listeners would get something out of it. "I'm very excited and adore the idea of someone in Africa or South America downloading my music," she said.
Little studied at the Yehudi Menuhin school and has gone on to win worldwide acclaim as a soloist, as well as performing with orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and making 14 Proms appearances.
Radiohead's decision last October to release their album In Rainbows on a pay what you want basis was a radical move, although whether it was financially sensible is another question - the average amount paid seems to have been £2.90.
The Naked Violin download will be available from Monday at tasminlittle.net