Tuesday, June 03, 2008

This is why historic recordings are safe

The splendid Mostly Opera reports on an opera singer's response to a blogger's criticism. Frankly, I would be honored if a singer took my criticism seriously enough to respond, but since most of the singers I discuss are dead (and have been for a little while in some cases, longer in others), I doubt that's going to happen.

This does, though, raise the question in my mind: When did classical music get so nice? I don't mean the 'Riot of Spring' time mêlées when I say that I have a more muscular, rough-and-tumble attitude to art music, but I do mean that criticism isn't always nice. Maybe the singer in question hasn't experienced the give-and-take the way others have, but - come on! - Slonimsky shows that the reviews of great music (whether Turandot meets that criterion is for a greater mind than mine to determine) have been meaner and ruder than the tidbit that got the knickers of the singer in question in a knot.

To wit, I append a selection from Slonimsky's great book, Lexicon of Musical Invective, concerning some music that has since taken some stature onto itself,

"Cette musique ne peut que remuer les sens les plus bas. La musique de Wagner réveille le cochon plutôt que l'ange. Je dis pire, elle assourdit les deux. C'est de la musique d'eunuque affolé." (Figaro: 26 July 1876)

That's right, friends: Richard Wagner was called, in effect, a demented eunuch (a charge with at least half of which Mathilde Wesendon[c]k might have disagreed). One wonders what our singer would have done had he been called as much.


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