Simply put, Classical Crossover is a term used to describe artists that adopt strong classical influences in their music, but ultimately they have an accessible and popular sound or a marketable image to reach out to a wider audience.
Due to it being a recent term and movement, it suffers from a lack of definition, with many people disagreeing as to what makes an artist Classical Crossover or not. It is important to understand that the word “crossover” in the term should not be taken literally (see What’s In A Name?) There is a distinct difference between “crossover” artists and “Classical Crossover” artists. “Crossover” is when an artist performs a certain type of music that is usually unpopular, but reaches a mass audience and achieves popularity.
The best example of this is when Luciano Pavarotti performed ‘Nessun Dorma’ in 1990 for the FIFA World Cup. Opera was considered a type of music for the elite, and yet Pavarotti, a qualified and active opera singer, went on to become a massive commercial success. Thus he ‘crossed over’ into the popular realm despite the fact that he did not perform popular music.
Classical Crossover did, indeed, take root from the Pavarotti situation in the sense that it made people realise that classical music could sell, but the Classical Crossover “sound” did not come from Pavorotti. Classical Crossover artists deliberately combine elements of pop music with classical.
The musical conventions of Classical Crossover:
Typically, unlike their classical counterparts, these artists must appeal to a mass audience to survive in the music industry. As is the case with all mainstream music, image and marketing are very important. Some artists may only include one convention, others may need to adopt several.
As with all genres, conventions overlap into different areas, but this is the rough guide as to what to expect from a Classical Crossover artist. All genres have conventions, but they also all contain artists that push boundaries and challenge conventions, so despite this guideline, do not assume that all Classical Crossover artists are merely products that adhere religiously to the above list. Even if they do follow the guidelines, they are good guidelines to make pleasing music! Which is the point of it all, of course.