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https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/composer-insults/saint-saens/

I came across this pretty amusing link. Which ones hit the mark, and which ones most unfair?

I enjoyed #4, although it doesn’t say to who it was in reference. Beethoven : “I enjoyed you’re opera, perhaps I will set it to music.”

Tchaikovsky also comes across as having some strong opinions..

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Number 22 "Bach on the wrong notes." Prokofiev on Stravinsky for me - it's just a nice expression. I don't particularly agree with the sentiment - although.....


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Some of these read like inside jokes, it's hard to tell if they were serious.

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I'm surprised most of the best insults weren't included, including Britten's on Brahms:
Benjamin Britten said he played through his music every few years to remind himself how bad it was – and usually found it was worse.

In fact, poor ol' Brahms bore the brunt of other composers' insults, possibly because he was rather a prickly pear himself - "If there is anybody in the room I have failed to insult, I apologize." (Actually, I use that at parties I don't want to attend, which is basically all of them smirk .)


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I enjoy the reply of Max Reger to a critic. Paraphrased from memory:
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. Your critic is in front of me. In a few moments, it will be behind me."


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My favorite is probably Rossini's comment on Wagner's music.

Here's another that's good, even if I totally don't agree with it (and since it's from memory, it may not be exactly right). Stravinsky: "Why is it that every time I hear music I don't like, it's by Villa-Lobos?"

There is a famous book of nastiness from critics regarding composers called "The Lexicon of Musical Invective" by Slonimsky. You might want to take a look at it.

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Brahms is well known for saying Bruckner's symphonies were "symphonic boa constrictors." The quote has always made me smile.


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Originally Posted by AaronSF
Brahms is well known for saying Bruckner's symphonies were "symphonic boa constrictors." The quote has always made me smile.
What does that mean? That the symphonies are suffocating? 😀 Or that they are an exotic species that may look dangerous but turns out it’s not poisonous and is rather calm?

As a huge fan of Bruckner I must say I’ve seen a lot of BS said about him from famous historical or living greats but I still don’t care at all!


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Originally Posted by patH
I enjoy the reply of Max Reger to a critic. Paraphrased from memory:
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. Your critic is in front of me. In a few moments, it will be behind me."

You got it! It's one of the few pieces of German I have committed to memory during my life: "Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein." Smallest room is obvious in context. "Kritik" probably translates best as "review".


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A couple more. This is Richard Taruskin on the last movement of Beethoven's 9th:

"The fourth movement . . . is in my opinion so monstrous and tasteless, and in its grasp of Schiller's Ode so trivial, that I cannot understand how a genius like Beethoven could have written it."

I'm not sure if this next one is authentic nor, if it is, who said it, and I'm not even sure it's meant as an insult, but whatever:

"All music by Benjamin Britten sounds like it was written for Peter Pears and all music performed by Peter Pears sounds as if it was written by Benjamin Britten."


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Originally Posted by bennevis
I'm surprised most of the best insults weren't included, including Britten's on Brahms:
Benjamin Britten said he played through his music every few years to remind himself how bad it was – and usually found it was worse.

Yet when we talk about the Three B"s, Britten ain't one of them. Go figure. smile

Last edited by Carey; 01/08/21 12:30 AM.

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Joseph H. Choate tells of a conversation he once had with the late “Bill” Nye, in reference to a concert the humorist had attended during his first visit to London. “I had asked Mr. Nye,” said Mr. Choate, “what was his opinion of Wagner’s music.” With the most serious expression in the world, Nye replied:

“I must confess that his music is beyond my comprehension; but I always feel sure, when I hear it, that it is really much better than it sounds.”

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Bartok in his Concerto for Orchestra, 4th movement 'Intermezzo interotto', making fun of Shostakovitch's 7th symphony, this is quite a derision.


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Richard Strauss, always wary of his Italian (and more popular) rivals like Puccini (Strauss even joked renaming himself Riccardo Straussino to earn a better living) wrote a pastiche tenor aria in the Rosenkavalier, 1st act: 'di rigor armato'. At it's repeat the tenor would have had the opportunity to sing the highest note ever, but just at that moment he is interrupted by the notary/solicitor, shouting very loudly: 'Morgengabe!', 'Dowry!', very revealing message...


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I read somewhere (and of course now I can't find a reference) that Chopin's "wrong note" etude was somewhat of an inside joke between him and Liszt and was insulting pianists who couldn't properly synchronize their left and right hands.


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Originally Posted by Chrispy
I read somewhere (and of course now I can't find a reference) that Chopin's "wrong note" etude was somewhat of an inside joke between him and Liszt and was insulting pianists who couldn't properly synchronize their left and right hands.
This seems surprising to me since asynchronization with LH playing before RH was quite popular in the 19th century and practiced at least to some extent by many pianists.

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I don't remember the persons' names or where I read it, but here's the story:

Pianist X pays a visit to composer Y. He notices some Mozart scores on Y's piano.
"What's all this for?" asks X. "I thought you composed from memory."

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Originally Posted by Ferdinand
Pianist X pays a visit to composer Y. He notices some Mozart scores on Y's piano.
"What's all this for?" asks X. "I thought you composed from memory."

I love the vicious bitchiness of this one!

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Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev weren't exactly the best of friends. At a reception after a memorial concert given for Scriabin in 1915 in which Rachmaninoff played one of Scriabin's piano Sonatas Prokofiev interrupted Rachmaninoff who was talking with some friends to congratulate Rachmaninoff on his performance. Rachmaninoff listened patiently while Prokofiev gave him some feedback and criticism of certain things he thought were wrong about the way Rachmaninoff had played the sonata, but finally capped off his critique with, "And yet, Sergei Vasilyevich, you did play quite well." To which Rachmaninoff remarked snidely with a sniff, "And you thought I'd play otherwise?" and then turned back to his friends to resume his conversation, leaving Prokofiev standing there with egg all over his face.


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Rachmaninoff once said, "Heard Nikisich conduct some bad serenade by Reger, and Carreño play some bad concerto by Dowell."*

* = "Dowell" refers to Edward MacDowell, a Romantic-era composer from the United States; that "bad" concerto, according to records, was the Second Piano Concerto.

The year when Rachmaninoff witnessed that concert was around 1906 or 1907. MacDowell was critically ill around that time, with a mental illness that had been ruining his life since 1904, and would eventually kill him in 1908.

Reger on the other hand, survived and continued composing until he died of a heart attack in 1916.


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