May 09, 2004
Is This A Contest?

Last Wednesday, Terry Teachout (About Last Night) quoted Aaron Haspel (God of the Machine) quoting David Hurwitz (Classics Today) on “Classical Music’s Ten Dirtiest Secrets”:

  1. Mozart really does all sound the same.
  2. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge is just plain ugly.
  3. Wagner’s operas are much better with cuts.
  4. No one cares about the first three movements of Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique.
  5. Schoenberg’s music never sounds more attractive, no matter how many times you listen to it.
  6. Schumann’s orchestration definitely needs improvement.
  7. Bruckner couldn’t write a symphonic allegro to save his life.
  8. Liszt is trash.
  9. The so-called "happy" ending of Shostakovich’s Fifth is perfectly sincere.
  10. It’s a good thing that “only” about 200 Bach cantatas survive.

Teachout comments:

When I went to school, five out of ten wasn’t a passing grade . . . .

So which five does he agree with? And is there a prize for guessing correctly? Here are my guesses:

  • Almost certainly agrees (to judge from previous comments on Schoenberg): 5.
  • Probably agrees (it’s not exactly an iconoclastic view): 6.
  • Probably disagrees: 1, 10.
  • No clear idea one way or the other: 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9.

If I have to make a specific guess to win a prize, I'll say: 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9. But that’s just a guess, not much better than a lottery pick.

Of course, it would be a lot easier to decide whether Teachout or anyone else agrees or should agree with 8 if it said either “most Liszt is trash” or “all Liszt is trash”. There’s a big difference. If it’s “most”, I’ll add 8 to the list and subtract 4 or 7.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 09, 2004 07:39 PM