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Nobody Ever Builds a Statue to a Critic

An exploration of composers' critiques, evaluations, and responses to their contemporaries.

Program 1

The theme for this week's show is taken from a line by John Sibelius, "They never built a statue for a music critic."

Originally, the show was to be based solely on the book Lexicon of Musical Inventive by Nicolas Slonimsky. The book is a collection of hilariously bad reviews about beloved peices of music. However, the theme was revised to also showcase music critics that got it right, many of which were also composers.

One of these is Robert Schumann who wrote under the pen names "Florestan" and "Eusebius." He writes, "In no other field of criticism is it so difficult to offer proof as in music."

Another one of these critics is Charles Rosen, a pianist who wrote books such as The Classical Style. Rosen wrote, "Almost all art is subversive. It attacks established values and replaces them with that of its own creation."



Schumann: Carnival, Op.9
V. Eusebius (excerpt)
XII. Chopin (excerpt)
Uchida, p.
Phil 94302
:26, 1:17

Chopin: Variations on "Là ci darem la mano," Op.2
Introduction (Largo-Poco più mosso)
Warsaw Philharmonic/Kord; Ohlsson,p.
Arabesque 6702
18:50, :36, :23

Mozart: Don Giovanni
“La ci Darem la Mano”
Overture (excerpt)
“Venite Pur Avanti” (excerpt)
Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields/Marriner; Allen, t.;McLaughlin,s.
Phil 432129
3:11, 1:17, 00:34

Mozart: String Quintet No.4 in G minor, K. 516
I Allegro
II Adagio (excerpt)
Alban Berg Quartet; Wolf, vla.
EMI 49085
7:31, 3:09

Mozart: "Ach, ich fühl's" fr. Die Zauberflöte
Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields/Marriner; Te Kanawa, s.
Philips 426276

Mozart: Symphony No. 40, K. 550, I (excerpt) & IV
Marlboro Festival Orchestra/Casals
Sony 47294
5:28, 1:34

Program 2

Due to the brain's "non-acceptance of the unfamiliar," being a music critic can be especially challenging. That idea is explored in this show.

E.T.A. Hoffman was an extremely perceptive music critic and wrote the book Musical Writings. Beethoven's 5th Symphony premiered on Dec. 2, 1808, and Hoffman's review was released a year and a half later on May of 1810. However, it was 16 pages long and Hoffman clearly understood Beethoven's 5th Symphony in a way that no other critic did at that time.

Schumann wrote about Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Schumann saw the dichotomy between the German style of writing symphonies, and Berlioz's desire to tell stories through music. 

In an interview with Pulitzer prize winning critic, Tim Page, Page requests a performance of Berceuse elegigue, by Ferruccio Busoni.

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109 I (excerpt)
Rudolf Serkin, p.
Sony 64490

Beethoven: Symphony No.5 In C Minor, Op. 67
I. Allegro Con Brio; IV. Allegro
Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra Of Venezuela/Dudamel
DG B0006689902
7:24, 5:02

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36
Allegro (excerpt)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Solti
London 430 792-2

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Op. 125
IV (excerpt)
London 430 792-2

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14, V
Sony 60968

Interview: Tim Page

Busoni, arr. John Adams: Berceuse Elegiaque

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Alsop
Naxos 8559031

Busoni: Piano Concerto
IV. All' Italiana: Vivace
Cleveland Orchestra/Dohnanyi; Ohlsson,p.
Telarc 80207

Program 3

Claude Debussy's peices, known for their use of whole tone scales, were panned by a lot of critics at the time. James Gibbons Huneker even went as far as to criticize Debussy for his ugly looks.

In an interview with a former New York Times music critic, Joseph Horowitz, Horowitz requests Liszt's 3rd Concerto,  Un Sospiro (The Sigh).

Similar to Debussy, Richard Strauss's opera, Salome, was not well received in 1907. It was even forbidden to be performed again, though that ban has not held up to the test of time.

According to John Von Rhein, a critic for The Chicago Tribune, it is important to understand new music as well as historical music because it is the critic's job to guide, instruct and educate the public.



Debussy: Pelléas Et Mélisande (excerpt)
Vienna Phil & Vienna State Opera Chorus/Abbado
DG 435344

Debussy: La Mer
London 436468

interview: Joe Horowitz

Liszt: Un Sospiro, S 144/3

Arrau, p.
Philips 416461

R. Strauss: Salome: Tanz der sieben Schleier (excerpt)
Vienna Phil/Solti
London 414414-2

Interview: John von Rhein

Sibelius: Symphony #5 In E Flat, Op. 82, III

City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Rattle
EMI 49717

Program 4

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger was bashed by many critics upon it's release. One critic went as far as to only identify himself as "a sufferer" in the byline. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, at first a huge Wagner fan, came to hate Wagner's music. This was perhaps due to the fact that Wagner found God around the time that Nietzche declared "God is dead." 

Critic Terry Teachout requests Moravec's Mood Swings.

Both Stravinsky and Schoenberg, who were doing very interesting and inventive things with harmony, disliked the other's works. Stravinksy's Rite of Spring caused a tremendous furor in Paris 1913 when it was first performed, and caused the greatest musical riot to date.



Wagner: Prelude fr. Die Meistersinger, Act. I
London 460610

Interview: Terry Teachout

Moravec: Mood Swings

Trio Solisti
Naxos 8559323

Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (excerpts)
20th Century Classics Ensemble/Craft
Naxos 85575523

Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring - Part 1
London Symphony Orchestra/Bernstein
Sony 93080

Program 5

Virgil Thomson was another composer/critic. He was very fond of Edward MacDowell, but called Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 in D Major "vulgar and self indulgent." Bill argues that this may be because Sibelius' "musical universe" is in sharp contrast to Thomson's.

There is a debate on whether a critic should know the composers well or keep a safe distance. Andrew Patner, a current critic, argues that the critic should know the artist and their processes.

Deryck Cooke, an English critic and musicologist who wrote Vindications, is a fan of The Beatles because they break with so many of the pop song form conventions.

MacDowell: To A Wild Rose fr. Woodland Sketches, Op. 51 (excerpt)
Cliburn, piano
RCA 60420

MacDowell:  Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 23 in d minor, II
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Hendl; Cliburn,p.

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, I (excerpt)
NY Phil/Bernstein
Sony 61848

Interview: Andrew Patner

Kurka: The Good Solider Schweik (excerpts)
Chicago Opera Theater/Platt
Cedille 62
9:06, 2:18, 2:58,

McCartney: Yesterday
McCartney, gtr. & voc.
Capitol 29325

Mahler: Symphony No. 10, V
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
CBS 45882


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