As I navigate the angst of our times about the dire situation of classical music, I can't help being struck by the fact that in the heyday of Beethoven, Schubert and co, people bought their chamber and instrumental music to perform at home - and fairly ordinary people at that (well-off, that is, but not professional musicians in any way). The effort required to learn that level of skill seems terribly high by the standards of what the average bourgeois family can manage today: you just can't see people popping round to the local music shop to buy a Britten or a Philip Glass quartet to play in the evening.

As I've mentioned before, I particularly feel this as a classical guitarist: most stuff that sounds any good on classical guitar is hideously difficult to play. So it's a rare treat to find some music that is at the opposite end of the scale.

My daughter and I just had a lovely evening digging out a bunch of guitar duos that we used to play when she was eight years old and just learning. They're from a French set "Chansons et Danses d'Amérique Latine", and they're simply wonderful pieces: full of life, rhythm and melody, and a joy to play. And best of all, they're so straightforward that we can sight-read them - and trust me, neither of us sight-reads to anything like a decent standard.

I'd love it if some modern composers put effort into deliberately writing works that are both musically interesting and aimed at performers who are rank amateurs and will never be able to find time for the hundreds of hours of practice required to play pieces aimed at concert soloists and chamber groups. Maybe that would get people gathering together to play classical music the same way that teenagers gather naturally to play songs with as many guitars as are in the room.

26th May 2009

P.S. If any of you guitar players are interested in the duos, the book we have is Volume C of a six volume set, collected/arranged/composed (I can't tell which) by Yvon Rivoal and published by Éditions Henry Lemoine in Paris, who also publish some fantastic but more advanced stuff by Roland Dyens. Their distributor in the UK by Faber Music (01279 828989).