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Thread: Does the biography of a performer have an effect on how you listen?

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    Senior Member BalloinMaschera's Avatar
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    Default Does the biography of a performer have an effect on how you listen?

    Walther Gieseking was reportedly a biggot and Nazi

    Mikhail Pletnev's possible penchant for young(ish) boys... apparently one of Classical Music's worts kept secrets...

    Wagner loved all things that celebrated supposed Teutonic values and campaigned against Jews...

    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf once applied to join the Nazi Party...

    I for one, did suddenly listen differently to Gieseking recordings, when I did some research and realized he was quite the baddy.

    Your thoughts?
    Last edited by BalloinMaschera; Jun-22-2011 at 18:01.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Depending on the circumstances some reputations will be tarnished at worst and some shattered for ever. In popular music Leadbelly did time for shooting someone dead but listeners (including me) instead remember him as a pivotal figure in Amercan folk music history - it's never Leadbelly The Killer. Gary Glitter on the other hand will be vilified for ever because of the nature of his acts - and so he should. In the classical world I was dismayed when I read somewhere that Camille Saint-Saens' frequent trips to North Africa were allegedly made in order to stimulate not just his musical creative juices. If true then it amounted to sex tourism verging on the predatory - unsavoury at the very least, beyond contempt at its very worst.

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    Does the biography of a performer have an effect on how you listen?
    Sure, if the recording was made by artists connected with Nazi movement I listen to it with pants on my head, carrot in hand and between the tracks I stand up and shout three times FORGIVE ME FOR LISTENING TO WAGNER AND KARAJAN ALL NATIONS AND RACES HARMED DURING WORLD WAR TWO

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    It probably depends on how much I like their music already. If I think it's brilliant, then their bad reputations are meaningless; if their music was already crappy, then it's no wonder they were such bad-asses.
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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    I often wonder why so many 19th century composers ended their lives with having acquired syphilis (Schubert, Smetana). When I told this biographical fact about Smetana to some Czech classical music lovers, they just were in shock & unwilling to believe it...

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TxllxT View Post
    I often wonder why so many 19th century composers ended their lives with having acquired syphilis (Schubert, Smetana). When I told this biographical fact about Smetana to some Czech classical music lovers, they just were in shock & unwilling to believe it...
    If you had acquainted them with how wide-spread and numerous those 'acquisitions' were, their dismay might have been less.
    Experience teaches you to recognize a mistake when you've made it again.
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    tdc
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    I've always thought the reason Szymanowski wasn't more popular, was because of his known relationship at one time with a 15 year old boy. I can't see any other reason why he wouldn't be as popular as someone as say Tchaikovsky. But how do we know Tchaikovsky didn't have similar relationships? We don't.

    Even if we've read historical facts, I don't think we fully understand the context of the times these composers lived in, and we shouldn't try to judge them with our modern 'politically correct' views etc. Reading a composers bio does not mean one actually knows that composer. I try as much as possible to separate the artist from the art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I've always thought the reason Szymanowski wasn't more popular, was because of his known relationship at one time with a 15 year old boy. I can't see any other reason why he wouldn't be as popular as someone as say Tchaikovsky
    A strange theory. How could it mean anything? Most people hear the music before get to know something about composer's life. Could anyone fall in love with music but then learn of such fact and decide not to listen to music written by such person? Unless you think that this unpopularity has it's roots in this fact and though it has little meaning now, it had some during his lifetime which is the reason of why he is unpopular today.

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    Many composers and artists were quite distasteful as human beings for a variety of reasons. If we discounted the work of all these people, I suspect we'd have very little left. Just a few examples:

    Beethoven was a thoroughly unpleasant, socially-challenged and unhygienic person.
    Lully was a predatory homosexual and, by all accounts, a very nasty piece of work indeed, reportedly punching a pregnant singer in the stomach to make her miscarry so she didn't miss performing in his operas.
    Mascagni was a member of the Fascist Party and an avid supporter of Mussolini.
    Stradella was a habitual womaniser.
    Tchaikovsky DID have an affair with a young boy - his nephew Vladimir Davidov (31 years his junior), known affectionately as 'Bob'.

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    tdc
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    A strange theory. How could it mean anything? Most people hear the music before get to know something about composer's life. Could anyone fall in love with music but then learn of such fact and decide not to listen to music written by such person? Unless you think that this unpopularity has it's roots in this fact and though it has little meaning now, it had some during his lifetime which is the reason of why he is unpopular today.
    I think I started thinking that simply because 1) Unlike any other composers I've read about on Wikipedia, his relationship with the younger male is one of the first things they draw attention to. Other composers who have allegedly had such relationships are more in the closet about it, and it is not really discussed openly on their wikipedia page.

    2) I personally consider him to be an amazing, brilliant and innovative composer, and I don't really understand the relative lack of enthusiasm about him on these forums. His Violin Concerto no. 1 was not enthusiastically supported in our top VC thread, despite being very worthy of making the list, and he is yet to have a work make it into our classical music project either, despite having in my view many works worthy of making it in.

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    Senior Member GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    There are any number of musicians, composers and performers, you would probably not care to associate with on a personal. Does this in any way detract from their qualities as artists? That is a very personal decision, but for me their private lives and the results of their labors are distinct and separate. Many p[rominent people in all fields are despicable as individuals.

    Rob

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Beethoven was a thoroughly unpleasant, socially-challenged and unhygienic person.


    Really? I was under the impression that frequent hair washing in cold water without drying may have contributed to his deafness - of course, that's only the top part of him...
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    I can't speak for others, but I'm not sure if I ever heard something biographical about a composer or performer before I heard the music they composed or performed. Wagner was obviously an awful person, but his music is sublime. I can easily separate the composer/performer from the music.

    The only exception might be if I heard some strongly negative things about a living performer, I might choose to purchase/listen to other performers instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    2) I personally consider him to be an amazing, brilliant and innovative composer, and I don't really understand the relative lack of enthusiasm about him on these forums
    Neither do I. But I honestly doubt that it's caused by his love affairs. It just happens that some composers remain under appreciated despite all their brilliance and value of their output.
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    Senior Member Il_Penseroso's Avatar
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    Toscanini once said : "To Richard Strauss the composer I take off my hat, to Richard Strauss the man I put it back on again !"
    What the great maestro said is enough for me ... in all cases ... musicians are human beings after all and "We all know there's good and evil everywhere" ...
    Last edited by Il_Penseroso; Jun-22-2011 at 21:02.
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