Musical insults

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barney
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Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:17 am

I am writing an article I have intended for many years, and have only now got round to: great insults. I've been collecting these for years, and this thread is by way of soliciting more. I have hundreds, many from politics and the arts. Some of my favourite musical insults follow, but I'd love to be able to extend that list from your contributions.

Thanks, Barney

Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? Friedrich Nietzsche

After Rossini dies who will there be to promote his music? Richard Wagner on Rossini.

One can’t judge Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend hearing it a second time.
Rossini

Parsifal is the kind of opera that starts at six o’clock, and after it has been going three hours you look at your watch and it says 6.20.
David Randolph

It sounded as though a pack of rats were being slowly tortured to death, while from time to time a dying cow moaned.
Berlin Signale on Wallingford Riegger’s Dichotomy.

George Bernard Shaw once attended as critic a recital given by a well-known Italian string quartet. A fellow critic, commenting favourably on the performance, said: ``These men have been playing together 12 years.'' ``Surely,'' answered Shaw, ``we
have been here longer than that.''

After auditioning a baritone for a forthcoming production of Carmen, Sir Thomas Beecham told the man's agent: ``He's made a mistake. He thinks he's the bull instead of the toreador.''

Beecham asked the principal oboe for an A to tune the orchestra, and the man produced the note with a very wide vibrato. ``Gentlemen,'' said Beecham to the rest of the orchestra, ``take your pick.''

Max Reger wrote to Munich critic Rudolf Louis: ``I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.''

Le Menestrel of 6 June 1914 suggested that Le Sacre du Printemps should be called ``Massacre du Printemps''.

Boston subscriber on hearing Le Sacre du Printemps:
Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring?
What right had he to write the thing?
Against our helpless ears to fling
Its crash, clang, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing.

Wagner is the Puccini of music. Beachcomber.

Beethoven to fellow composer: I liked your opera. I think I will set it to music.

Johnny Mercer on a British musical: I could eat alphabet soup and excrement better lyrics.

Swans sing before they die – ‘twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die before they sing.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Epigram on a volunteer Singer

Tosca in Tokyo featured Montserrat Caballe. The Japanese were impressed. It was clear that they hadn’t seen anything that size since the battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945.
Clive James, The Observer, 14/10/1979

Someone once commented to Rudolph Bing, “Georg Szell is his own worst enemy.” “Not while I’m alive, he isn’t!” Bing replied.

Why is it that whenever I hear a piece of music I do not like, it is always by Villa Lobos?
Igor Stravinsky

absinthe
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Re: Musical insults

Post by absinthe » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:24 am

Stravinsky and Boulez were arch insulters in the trade.

Jared
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Jared » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:29 am

^^ excellent barney... a top post!! :lol:

Istvan
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Istvan » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:30 am

Customer in restaurant: I say, do you ever play anything by request?
Delighted musician: Certainly, sir.
Customer: Then would you kindly play a game of dominoes until I have finished my meal.

(from Punch).

"With the greatest astonishment, I beg to state that this cantata is not by me. I shall retain same in my possession in order to learn, if possible, who sent you that kind of trash in such an impolite manner and also to discover the fellow who has been misusing my name."

(One Franz Schubert on receiving a copy of 'Erlkönig' by the Schubert in 1817.)
Cheers

Istvan

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Jared
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Jared » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:34 am

here's a link I think you will all enjoy:

http://www.insults.net/html/historical/ ... sults.html

:D

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:47 am

Jared wrote:here's a link I think you will all enjoy:

http://www.insults.net/html/historical/ ... sults.html

:D
Thanks Jared,

Indeed there are some new ones (to me) there, and many delightful. What good fun insults are. When I finally write the article, I'll put up a link.

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:48 am

Istvan wrote:Customer in restaurant: I say, do you ever play anything by request?
Delighted musician: Certainly, sir.
Customer: Then would you kindly play a game of dominoes until I have finished my meal.

(from Punch).

"With the greatest astonishment, I beg to state that this cantata is not by me. I shall retain same in my possession in order to learn, if possible, who sent you that kind of trash in such an impolite manner and also to discover the fellow who has been misusing my name."

(One Franz Schubert on receiving a copy of 'Erlkönig' by the Schubert in 1817.)
:lol:

I never heard the Schubert one. How wonderful!

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:52 am

A few more:

You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow. ~Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket

The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't got the joke yet. ~Oliver Herford

I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else. ~Lily Tomlin

The scratches in Yoko Ono records are moments of relief. ~S.A. Sachs

The London Times devoted a special leader in its issue of 7 August 1856 to the iniquities of La Traviata, attacking the opera as ``public representation of prostitution'' in the ``brothels and abominations of modern Paris, of the Boulevards as they exist in the year 1856.'' The writer issued a solemn warning to ``the ladies of England to take heed of this matter'' lest their husbands and sons should be ``inoculated with the worst type of Parisian vice.''

If the reader were so rash as to purchase any of Bela Bartok's compositions, he would find that they each and all consist of unmeaning bunches of notes, apparently representing the composer promenading the keyboard in his boots. Some can be played better with the elbows, others with the flat of the hand. None require fingers to perform nor ears to listen to ... the productions ... of Bartok (are) mere ordure.
Frederick Corder, On the Cult of Wrong Notes, Musical Quarterly, New York July 1915.

Beecham was in a no-smoking carriage when a women passenger lit a cigarette, asking; “you won’t object if I smoke?” To which he replied, “Certainly not – and you won’t object if I am sick?’’ She angrily retorted: “I don’t think you know who I am. I am one of the directors’ wives.’’ Beecham: “Madam, if you were the director’s only wife, I should still be sick.’’

John F
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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:56 am

You'll find pages and pages of them in Nicolas Slonimsky's "A Lexicon of Musical Invective," which has been continuously in print for decades:

http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Musical-I ... 392&sr=8-1

It has an invaluable index that Slonimsky calls an Invecticon, with entries like "Advanced cat music (Wagner, 235)" and "Disintegration of an Irish Potato (Varese, 217)".
John Francis

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Re: Musical insults

Post by RebLem » Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:58 am

Ravinia is a small town on the North Shore north of Chicago, and is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony. Ravinia Park, where the concerts are given, is served by the Northwestern Railroad, and for many years, the CSO could not get the railroad to stop service during concerts, so trains would rumble through making a terrible low rumbling noise and doing great disservice to the music.

Sir Thomas Beecham once remarked on this deplorable situation, "Ravinia is the only railway station in the world with its own resident symphony orchestra."
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John F
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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:00 am

barney wrote:Beecham was in a no-smoking carriage when a women passenger lit a cigarette, asking; “you won’t object if I smoke?” To which he replied, “Certainly not – and you won’t object if I am sick?’’ She angrily retorted: “I don’t think you know who I am. I am one of the directors’ wives.’’ Beecham: “Madam, if you were the director’s only wife, I should still be sick.’’
I don't believe this one. Beecham was a smoker himself - he favored cigars - and is unlikely to have ridden in a no-smoking car, or if he did, to have objected to others smoking. Maybe the story is true but about someone else; Beecham had such a reputation as a wit that stories attached themselves to him, as others' symphonies and sonatas attached themselves to Haydn.
John Francis

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Re: Musical insults

Post by Teresa B » Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:55 am

Yes, I know it was only fiction from "Amadeus", but couldn't resist anyway!

Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come!
Mozart: How could I not?
Salieri: How... Did my work please you?
Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me.
Mozart: No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... "Salieri."


Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

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Re: Musical insults

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:20 am

Teresa B wrote:Yes, I know it was only fiction from "Amadeus", but couldn't resist anyway!

Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come!
Mozart: How could I not?
Salieri: How... Did my work please you?
Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me.
Mozart: No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... "Salieri."


Teresa
I find a certain (probably unintended) irony about that scene, since Salieri has just finished conducting the rather splendid if predictable concluding chorus of his opera. If he deserved clever condemnation for not ending his opera with something more profound, then so would Mozart have done for the ending of The Magic Flute.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:31 am

John F wrote:You'll find pages and pages of them in Nicolas Slonimsky's "A Lexicon of Musical Invective," which has been continuously in print for decades:

http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Musical-I ... 392&sr=8-1

It has an invaluable index that Slonimsky calls an Invecticon, with entries like "Advanced cat music (Wagner, 235)" and "Disintegration of an Irish Potato (Varese, 217)".
Thank you, and it has been a favourite of mine for decades. A great contribution to musicology, we can agree.

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:40 am

John F wrote:
barney wrote:Beecham was in a no-smoking carriage when a women passenger lit a cigarette, asking; “you won’t object if I smoke?” To which he replied, “Certainly not – and you won’t object if I am sick?’’ She angrily retorted: “I don’t think you know who I am. I am one of the directors’ wives.’’ Beecham: “Madam, if you were the director’s only wife, I should still be sick.’’
I don't believe this one. Beecham was a smoker himself - he favored cigars - and is unlikely to have ridden in a no-smoking car, or if he did, to have objected to others smoking. Maybe the story is true but about someone else; Beecham had such a reputation as a wit that stories attached themselves to him, as others' symphonies and sonatas attached themselves to Haydn.
Maybe so. I can't deny it.

Here's another favourite Beecham story. He meets a lady in a hotel in Lancashire. He knows her face but he can't remember her name. After a few minutes of embarrassing conversation he remembers she has a notable brother. "How is your brother, and is he still in the same job?" "Yes, thank you, Sir Thomas, he is still king!"

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:41 am

Teresa B wrote:Yes, I know it was only fiction from "Amadeus", but couldn't resist anyway!

Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come!
Mozart: How could I not?
Salieri: How... Did my work please you?
Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me.
Mozart: No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... "Salieri."


Teresa
:lol:

There are lots of similar examples. I remember a piece on advice in the green room:
"I've never heard Mahler sound like that!"
"Wonderful is not the word!"
etc

Istvan
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Istvan » Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:10 am

A critic is like a harem eunuch. He knows all about it but cannot do it himself.

"The clarinettist produced an anxious, insubstantial tone that was in danger of vanishing altogether." (Critic in The Times.)

'De Sabotage': musicians' nickname for De Sabata.
Cheers

Istvan

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THEHORN
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Re: Musical insults

Post by THEHORN » Sun Aug 28, 2011 10:08 am

Sergei Prokofiev on Virgil Thomson's opera "Four Saints In Three Acts " -

"It's four notes in three acts ! "










:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Musical insults

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:12 pm

barney wrote:There are lots of similar examples. I remember a piece on advice in the green room:
"I've never heard Mahler sound like that!"
"Wonderful is not the word!"
etc
"No performance is better than his."

Many such backhanded remarks are cataloged in an old book called Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, which is cited here:

http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/august97/0376.html

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Sun Aug 28, 2011 1:10 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Many such backhanded remarks are cataloged in an old book called Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations
"Now that is a baby!"
John Francis

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:56 pm

THEHORN wrote:Sergei Prokofiev on Virgil Thomson's opera "Four Saints In Three Acts " -

"It's four notes in three acts ! "










:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

:lol: :lol: :lol:

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:58 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
barney wrote:There are lots of similar examples. I remember a piece on advice in the green room:
"I've never heard Mahler sound like that!"
"Wonderful is not the word!"
etc
"No performance is better than his."

Many such backhanded remarks are cataloged in an old book called Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, which is cited here:

http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/august97/0376.html
Thanks for this, it's great fun.

There's a couple I don't get though.

Where's the ambiguity in "She just may be the best accountant your firm will ever hire" or "we wish we had 10 employees like him"? I hate missing the joke!

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:59 pm

Istvan wrote:A critic is like a harem eunuch. He knows all about it but cannot do it himself.

"The clarinettist produced an anxious, insubstantial tone that was in danger of vanishing altogether." (Critic in The Times.)

'De Sabotage': musicians' nickname for De Sabata.
Love that. Was it just a clever wordplay, or was it deserved?

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Re: Musical insults

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:17 pm

barney wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
barney wrote:There are lots of similar examples. I remember a piece on advice in the green room:
"I've never heard Mahler sound like that!"
"Wonderful is not the word!"
etc
"No performance is better than his."

Many such backhanded remarks are cataloged in an old book called Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, which is cited here:

http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/august97/0376.html
Thanks for this, it's great fun.

There's a couple I don't get though.

Where's the ambiguity in "She just may be the best accountant your firm will ever hire"
Because you'll be out of business within a week.
or "we wish we had 10 employees like him"?
Because together they might get one person's work done.

Just guessing, of course. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Musical insults

Post by Lance » Sun Aug 28, 2011 11:17 pm

Barney wrote: Beecham asked the principal oboe for an A to tune the orchestra, and the man produced the note with a very wide vibrato. "Gentlemen,'' said Beecham to the rest of the orchestra, "take your pick.''

I love it, I love it, I love it! (Thanks for the laff I needed today.)
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Wallingford » Sun Aug 28, 2011 11:50 pm

After a tuba player's solo, Beecham remarked, "Thank you....now could you please pull the chain?"
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Istvan
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Istvan » Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:08 am

Toscanini on Furtwängler (letter):

"The inane vacuity of that man with the pear-shaped head!!"

Letter to Stokowski:

"Dear Stokowski, This afternoon you vitriolized César Franck! Never in all my long life did I hear such an ignoble, bestial performance - even from you. You are fit for the madhouse - or jail."

In rehearsal with the NBC Symphony Orchestra:

"Vergogna!! Teste di cazzo!!!"
Cheers

Istvan

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THEHORN
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Re: Musical insults

Post by THEHORN » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:02 am

Speaking of Caballe, one nickname for her I've heard is "Monsterfat Cow Belly " !

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Re: Musical insults

Post by maestrob » Mon Aug 29, 2011 10:52 am

Toscanini to a recalcitrant horn player: "Your mother shoulda never let you out!"

Sir Thomas Beecham to an oboist who couldn't get it right in rehearsal:

Sir Thomas: "What is your name exactly, Sir?"

Reply: "My name is Ball, Maestro."

Sir Thomas: "Ah! THAT explains the singularity of your playing!"

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:49 am

Wallingford wrote:After a tuba player's solo, Beecham remarked, "Thank you....now could you please pull the chain?"
Brilliant, but the poor player! Where could he look?

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:50 am

Istvan wrote:Toscanini on Furtwängler (letter):

"The inane vacuity of that man with the pear-shaped head!!"

Letter to Stokowski:

"Dear Stokowski, This afternoon you vitriolized César Franck! Never in all my long life did I hear such an ignoble, bestial performance - even from you. You are fit for the madhouse - or jail."

In rehearsal with the NBC Symphony Orchestra:

"Vergogna!! Teste di cazzo!!!"
Wow. I'd love to know whether Stokowski replied. I've listened (I think John F alerted us) to Toscanini rehearsals on YouTube. Not a nice man!

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:51 am

THEHORN wrote:Speaking of Caballe, one nickname for her I've heard is "Monsterfat Cow Belly " !
Cruel but fair, I'd say. :D

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Re: Musical insults

Post by Heck148 » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:35 am

Wallingford wrote:After a tuba player's solo, Beecham remarked, "Thank you....now could you please pull the chain?"
Beecham is deserving of an entire thread all his own....his comments, critiques, insults were absolute classics...It would have been really difficult to play for him, I'd be LMAO the whole time!! :mrgreen:

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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:53 pm

Not just a thread, a book - and it exists: "Beecham Stories," by Harold Atkins and Archie Newman. According to Amazon you can get it there - 12 used copies from $0.01.
John Francis

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Re: Musical insults

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:11 pm

John F wrote:Not just a thread, a book - and it exists: "Beecham Stories," by Harold Atkins and Archie Newman. According to Amazon you can get it there - 12 used copies from $0.01.
I'm holding out for a sale.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Musical insults

Post by lennygoran » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:18 pm

(I'm holding out for a sale.)

Yes and will they wave the shipping charge? Len

John F
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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:45 pm

They ought to pay you to take it off their hands.
John Francis

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Re: Musical insults

Post by Ken » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:21 pm

The first movement of Schumann's Op. 26 "Faschingsschwank aus Wien" (Carnival Jest from Vienna) contains a nice little snippet of La Marseilleise as a kind of nose-thumb at the then very active anti-Napeolonic censors who had prevented him from accomplishing much of what he had tried to do as a publisher in the city during his four-month stay in 1839. A subtle but effective gesture, if you ask me.
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

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Re: Musical insults

Post by John F » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:54 pm

Is that really what it's about? In 1839, Napoleon had been dead for 18 years, and Napoleon II was also dead, so one wouldn't have thought there were "very active anti-Napeolonic censors" around any longer. Can you tell more?
John Francis

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Re: Musical insults

Post by Wallingford » Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:22 pm

Dimitri Mitropoulos begged Toscanini to perform a Mahler symphony--perhaps the First.

To which the elder maestro responded that Mahler's scores were only suitable for wiping one's arse.

Now there's my man!
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Istvan
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Re: Musical insults

Post by Istvan » Fri Sep 02, 2011 6:52 am

Klemperer: Did you enjoy my 'lieder'?
Barenboim: No, Dr Klemperer
.

Klemperer (to Lotte, later): I like that boy. A pity he knows nothing about music.


(from Peter Heyworth's biography).
Cheers

Istvan

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barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:25 am

Wallingford wrote:Dimitri Mitropoulos begged Toscanini to perform a Mahler symphony--perhaps the First.

To which the elder maestro responded that Mahler's scores were only suitable for wiping one's arse.

Now there's my man!
A typically modest and generous appraisal from one of life's more sunny characters! :lol:

barney
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Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:26 am

Istvan wrote:Klemperer: Did you enjoy my 'lieder'?
Barenboim: No, Dr Klemperer
.

Klemperer (to Lotte, later): I like that boy. A pity he knows nothing about music.


(from Peter Heyworth's biography).
Klemperer a sound judge, as always. :D

barney
Posts: 2866
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Musical insults

Post by barney » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:28 am

John F wrote:Is that really what it's about? In 1839, Napoleon had been dead for 18 years, and Napoleon II was also dead, so one wouldn't have thought there were "very active anti-Napeolonic censors" around any longer. Can you tell more?
Without any knowledge whatsoever, and unemcumbered by any research, can I point out that there was more than one Napoleon? Later ones seemed dislikeable too. :D

Istvan
Posts: 570
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:48 am
Location: France

Re: Musical insults

Post by Istvan » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:36 am

Mahler's Fifth Symphony, with its emphasis on tremendous performances from the brass, eventually became identified as the Chicago's signature work; audiences expected to hear it. At a reception one evening after the umpteenth performance, Bud Herseth went up to Solti and said, "Maestro, I felt there was something special about the way we played it tonight." Solti glared at him and hissed: "My God, Bud, I can't stand it anymore!"
Cheers

Istvan

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