The President and HM the Queen

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The President's Speech

RDAM Anniversary Gala Concert on 17 November

Your Majesty, Excellences, dear guests from home and abroad, dear students and employees.

A heartfelt welcome to the Annual Celebration Concert of The Royal Danish Academy of Music, which this year, 2017, is the 150th year of the founding of the Royal Danish Academy in 1867, and the culmination of this year's many events, including a book release of Music and Education - RDAM in 150 years, and a CD box with numerous recordings related to the Academy.

A considerable testamentary gift was the start of Copenhagen Conservatory of Music, which, according to the testament, should be entrusted to three of the leading Danish music personalities at the time; the composer Niels W. Gade, the composer I. P. E. Hartmann and conductor at the Royal Danish Orchestra H. S. Paulli. These were good choices. Not least because Gade, who himself was celebrated in 2017 for the 200th year of his birth, had both significant international experience and had demonstrated an abundant drive in Danish music life over the previous fifteen years. In the 1840s, he had been an important part of the music scene in one of the central European music metropoles, namely Leipzig, where he worked with both Schumann and, in particular, with Felix Mendelsohn, while he had also gained European fame as a composer. In Leipzig in 1844, he was affiliated with the newly opened conservatory as teacher and as second conductor for the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra, where, at Mendelssohn’s dead in 1847, he took over his post as first conductor. Not bad for a young Danish composer at that time. In 1848, Gade returned to Copenhagen and became head of Copenhagen’s main concert organisation, The Music Society. This he quickly revitalised by establishing a new orchestra, based on Lumbye's Tivoli Orchestra, and by renewing the repertoire which both contributed to considerably raising the level of music life in Copenhagen. In 1858, he also had the prestigious position as organist at Holmens Church, and, from 1867, the position of director of the Copenhagen Music Academy.

The start of the Academy was very modest: A six room flat in Rådhusstræde and an intake of 28 students - 13 women and 15 men. Despite the modest conditions, several future important names in Danish music life were among the students from those first years, and gradually the premises improved. From 1884 to 1886, a young Carl Nielsen studied at the Academy, and looking at the Academy’s history, most of the great names in Danish music life have passed through RDAM - either as students or teachers.

It was a milestone when the Academy in 1905 moved to a completely new and stately building on the present HC Andersens Boulevard 36. Three years prior to this, the Academy had achieved royal protection and a change of name to The Royal Danish Academy of Music which gave the Academy a more official standing, "which is not without importance, particularly towards foreign countries" as the board wrote in their application.

The number of students rose considerably and numbered 167 in 1915. In 1949, the state nationalised the Academy, and both its finances and organisation changed in a number of crusial ways. It would be too much to go further through even the most general historical steps, and I shall therefore just mention that the study programmes at RDAM and the other Danish music academies in 2004 became part of the so-called Bologna structure with Bachelor and Master's degree programmes. The Danish music academies were further given the opportunity to continue the so-called soloist programme and, for RDAM the Opera Academy, at advanced post-graduate level. Another important milestone occurred in 2008, when RDAM moved to the present, outstanding buildings in Vilhelm Lauritzen's iconic Radio House with, among other things, this spectacular concert hall that also contributes to substantiate the great importance of the Academy as a cultural institution.

Having been a small private Copenhagen institute in modest conditions, the Academy has made an almost indescribable journey to the present RDAM with about 400 students and approx. 150 teachers, which "stands for the highest international level and measure up to and cooperate with a number of the best conservatoires in the world" as is written in the Academy's vision. And for this reason, it is so uplifting that we tonight are so fortunate to have as guests Presidents and other representatives from a number of distinguished partner academies of music from Europe, USA and China, among these the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who this year is celebrating their 90th anniversary and is represented in the orchestra by four string students.

150 years is a long timespan. Not just the Academy but also the surrounding society has undergone an almost unfathomable development. Educational enterprise today is something quite different from 1867, even if a certain correlation still exists for RDAM. The professional competence is thus still clearly defined, namely classical music. At the centre of our public responsibilities is the education of musicians, singers, composers and tonmeisters at the highest level.

Subjects such as pedagogy and presentation are for the most part included; subjects that for the pure pedagogical curricula are obviously very central.

Within classical music, talent and artistic potential are closely linked with great craftsmanship and further carried by extensive insight into styles and repertoires. There is no shortcut to playing Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Bartok or Berio. To achieve the necessary qualifications as professional orchestra musician it takes approximately 10,000 practice hours or even more, and especially for string players or pianists the path to excellence should more or less begin already in childhood. The education of classical musicians is thus very different from the education of artists within other genres of music, performing arts, films or visual arts. To gain a position in a professional orchestra or ensemble you have to live up to a globally defined level when auditions are international competitions conducted behind a screen. That is the reason for us being so vigilant about the core skills and, unfortunately, also very vulnerable in view of these years' drastic budget cuts, as the central point in the study programmes - the centre of it all - is the very costly main subject with a large measure of necessary 1-1 teaching.

This should not be understood as a reservation against new subjects and the development of new teaching methods, including new technology such as RDAM's many distance learning activities.

As an example, the so-called reflection paper of the Master's programme, that were originally met with scepticism, developed into a very useful part of the Master’s examinations, just as entrepreneurship and performance psychology have shown great justification. The coherence between the students' reflection papers and the development of artistic research activities as an essential part of the Academy's knowledge foundation is also of increasing importance to RDAM.

The latest figures from Danish Statistics show a historical low gross unemployment of 3.2% for our graduates. The relevance of the study programmes and the employment of the graduates is thus linked as never before. It cannot be denied, however, that some see classical music primarily as a stuffy cultural heritage. I will say to them: Rid yourself of prejudices and open your ears. Current performances of classical works, new, newer or several hundred years old, on the contrary, are contemporary artistic performances unfolding before us, based on a performance practice in constant change - a mirror reflecting our time of life.

Classical music still represents a very central part of the current multi-faceted artistic forms of expression and is a unique source of experience, contemplation and artistic realisation. The incredible development of the Academy through 150 years is the fruit of enormous efforts by a long line of principals, professors and other employees - not to speak of the many students, who are the whole basis for an educational institution such as RDAM. Without these efforts, the Academy could not have become what RDAM is to-day. For this, I would like to express my profound gratitude.

Thank you also to our many good and inspiring collaborators, national as well as international, private individuals and institutions including the so-called practice environments- meaning orchestras, choirs and ensembles etc.

Also, a warm thank you to the many foundations and donors that help and support the Academy in an economically challenging time. We are now going to listen to the first performance of a completely new work anno 2017 by professor Niels-Rosing Schow, Here and Now, introduced by Charles Ives's short piece The Unanswered Question. After the intermission we shall listen to Niels W. Gade's Elverskud, a national cultural heritage from 1854 but at the same time actualized through this performance anno 2017 as a statement also of our time. Thank you to all performers and participants, and the conductor, Professor Michael Schønwandt.

Finally, I would like to express the hope for an ever lively and dynamic RDAM towards the 200 years anniversary in 2067. To all of you here in the concert hall, I wish you a continuing wonderful Annual Celebration Concert.

President Bertel Krarup

Photo: President Bertel Krarup and Her Majesty the Queen (photographer Hasse Ferrold)