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Thread: Most Misunderstood Composers?

  1. #31
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    As ubiquitous as it is, I think Wagner is probably the most misunderstood composer . No composer has ever been demonized for his opinions and personal life ; many people are hostile to his music because he was an anti-semite , a serial adulterer , an egomaniac and all that .
    And because of Hitler's idolization of him and all that baggage . Admittedly, Wagner was no saint . But can you name an other famous composer who WAS a saint ?
    But too many people actually see something sinister and even evil in his music and his dramaturgy .
    Hitler idolized him, therefor his music is full of anti-semitism , Hitlerian grandiosity and as Woody Allen famously said "Wagner's music makes me want to invade Poland ".
    Wagner's music was controversial long before Hitler was even born in 1883 . But not because he was an anti-semite . Anti-semtiism of a much milder kind that Hitler's was not even considered reprehensible by most Europeans in Wagner's lifetime and he was by no means the only composer of his day with anti-semitic sentiments .
    Ironically, the two most popular composers in Israel today are Chopin and Tchaikovsky, both of whom were somewhat anti-Semitic . But there has been an unofficial ban n performing Wagner in Israel or so long, and the Israeli opera has never staged any of his operas .
    Can you hear anything anti-semitic in the ecstatic love duet of Tristan and Isolde ? Or the Flying Dutchman overture ? Or the prelude and Bacchanal music in Tannhauser ? Or the "Siegfried Idyll "?
    Or the Wesendonck leader ? Or the Good Friday music in Parsifal ?
    I doubt it . If you do, you do not understand Wagner in ht least bit . Wagner's operas don't really have anything to do with Jews and Judaism . There are no Jewish characters in them , no discussions of Jews and Judaism favorable or unfavorable , and there is not a single anti-semitic statement by any one of Wagner's many characters . The word "Jew" doesn't appear once in any of his librettos .
    In the second act of Parsifal, there is an indirect reference to the the crucifixion of Jesus by Kundry when she tries to seduce him . In the first act of Die Meistersinger, there is a reference to the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, but just in passing and not in an antisemitic sense .
    The Ring of the Nibelungen does not glorify anything Hitler stood for . On the contrary , it is an allegory about the destructive effect of lust for power and riches at the expense of love and compassion . It ends with the destruction of the gods as the result of Wotan's greed for power .
    Hitler was not smart enough to realize this .
    Some critics, musicologists and writers have read antisemitism as a subtext into the operas, but this is questionable at best .
    If people would think about these things, they might be able to appreciate the magnificence and power of Wagner's music and his genius as a dramatist and creator of complex and fascinating characters without the baggage of Hitler and the Nazis .

  2. #32
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superhorn
    Hitler idolized him, therefor his music is full of anti-semitism , Hitlerian grandiosity and as Woody Allen famously said "Wagner's music makes me want to invade Poland ".
    I've always found it odd that Wagner's frequently blamed for the rise of the Nazis, but Nietzsche never is.

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  4. #33
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    I've always found it odd that Wagner's frequently blamed for the rise of the Nazis, but Nietzsche never is.
    Maybe on a philosophy forum. (Here, we might note how awful Nietzsche's music is, although someone probably loves it.)
    Last edited by JAS; Jun-06-2020 at 12:31.

  5. #34
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Surely Milton Babbitt is high on the "misunderstood" list, and mostly because of that article, "Who Cares If You Listen?", which was not his title and frankly contradictory to the point he was making. And his reputation as an arch-serialist didn't help. I mean, he was an arch-serialist, but so much of music is light and witty, and people who come in leaving the preconceptions at the door are often then surprised at how tuneful his music is. But that's no surprise if you know that Babbitt was a huge fan of Broadway, and would sit down at a piano and bang out showtunes, from any musical you could name, with the least provocation.

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  7. #35
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    I've always found it odd that Wagner's frequently blamed for the rise of the Nazis, but Nietzsche never is.
    Have you read Nietzsche's Ecce homo? He was pretty much anti-German. Even trashed German cuisine and everything else German. After he fell out with Wagner, he blamed him for being overly German.

    Some bits from Ecce homo (to not get off-topic they are all associated with Wagner and music ):

    "What is it that I have never forgiven Wagner? The fact that he condescended to the Germans—that he became a German Imperialist.... Wherever Germany spreads, she ruins culture."

    "With a nature like mine, which is so strange to everything Teutonic, that even the presence of a German retards my digestion, my first meeting with Wagner was the first moment in my life in which I breathed freely: I felt him, I honoured him, as a foreigner, as the opposite and the incarnate contradiction of all "German virtues. [...] Wagner was a revolutionary—he fled from the Germans.... As an artist, a man has no home in Europe save in Paris; that subtlety of all the five senses which Wagner's art presupposes, those fingers that can detect slight gradations, psychological morbidity—all these things can be found only in Paris."

    "Wagner is the counter-poison to everything essentially German—the fact that he is a poison too, I do not deny. From the moment that Tristan was arranged for the piano—all honour to you, Herr von Bülow!—I was a Wagnerite. Wagner's previous works seemed beneath me—they were too commonplace, too "German." ... But to this day I am still seeking for a work which would be a match to Tristan in dangerous fascination, and possess the same gruesome and dulcet quality of infinity; I seek among all the arts in vain."

    "I shall never admit that a German can understand what music is."

    Nietzsche sounds almost obsessive. No wonder he cannot be properly associated with Hitler...
    Last edited by annaw; Jun-06-2020 at 20:06.

  8. #36
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Rienzi and Adolf Hitler
    August Kubizek, a boyhood friend of Adolf Hitler, claimed that Hitler was so influenced by seeing Rienzi as a young man in 1906 or 1907 that it triggered his political career, and that when Kubizek reminded Hitler, in 1939 at Bayreuth, of his exultant response to the opera Hitler had replied, "At that hour it all began!" Although Kubizek's veracity has been seriously questioned, it is known that Hitler possessed the original manuscript of the opera, which he had requested and been given as a fiftieth birthday present in 1939. The manuscript was with Hitler in his bunker; it was either stolen, lost or destroyed by fire in the destruction of the bunker's contents after Hitler's death (the manuscript of Wagner's earlier work Die Feen is believed to have met with the same fate). Thomas Grey comments:

    In every step of Rienzi's career – from ... acclamation as leader of the Volk, through military struggle, violent suppression of mutinous factions, betrayal and ... final immolation – Hitler would doubtless have found sustenance for his fantasies.

    Albert Speer claims to have remembered an incident when Robert Ley advocated using a modern composition to open the Party Rallies in Nuremberg, but Hitler rejected this idea:

    "You know, Ley, it isn't by chance that I have the Party Rallies open with the overture to Rienzi. It's not just a musical question. At the age of twenty-four this man, an innkeeper's son, persuaded the Roman people to drive out the corrupt Senate by reminding them of the magnificent past of the Roman Empire. Listening to this blessed music as a young man in the theater at Linz, I had the vision that I too must someday succeed in uniting the German Empire and making it great once more."

    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Have you read Nietzsche's Ecce homo? He was pretty much anti-German. Even trashed German cuisine and everything else German.
    Well, German cuisine is **** anyway. Just compare with French or Italian cuisine.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Jun-06-2020 at 20:23.

  9. #37
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    One of the best posts I have read in a long time! Thank you, superhorn, for setting the record straight about one of the most talented of composers. I learned a lot and will no longer feel guilty for enjoying Wagner.

  10. #38
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    Scho, Liszt and Ives are 3 of my fav composers. I'm not really familiar with why anyone would dislike them. All i really know if that i like them and that's enough for me

  11. #39
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    [ ""So you're the composer of The Barber of Seville." Beethoven said. "I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa [comic opera]; any other style would do violence to your nature."
    Rossini politely reminded Beethoven that he had already written several well-received serious operas; he had even sent them to Beethoven for a look. "Yes, I looked at them," the old man retorted. "Opera seria is ill suited to the Italians. You don’t know how to deal with drama.""
    ]

    One thing I keep noticing about Beethoven and Schubert enthusiasts from time to time is that they never accept the fact that Beethoven and Schubert themselves were jealous of contemporaries who achieved massive public success in opera, and that they themselves put great efforts to catch up. The people always like to make Beethoven and Schubert out to be some sort of "great avant-garde artists of profound expression" who would never have bothered writing popular, light music trifles. They always like to talk about how much "serious music" Beethoven and Schubert wrote compared to their predecessors. But I don't think they wrote any more "serious music" than Mozart did. Why don't the people just "accept it" already — go listen to the final two movements of Schubert D.960. Or the ending of Choral Fantasie. I don't find Beethoven's Op.130, for example, with its alternative finale any more serious or "avant-garde in profundity of expression" than Haydn's Op.76 set. The late sonatas are idiomatically in vogue with Hummel's Op.81. Let's face it, in the minds of many, when Beethoven writes stuff like the cavatina slow movement, somehow he is some great composer of "profound depth" nobody can understand fully. When Haydn writes something like Op.76 No.6 fantasia slow movement, he's merely a "18th century light music composer". The D major sections in Beethoven's Op.132 slow movement almost reminds me of Pachelbel's canon nowadays.
    Btw, there's not a single thread on this forum questioning the "depth" of Schubert.



    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Jun-07-2020 at 03:41.

  12. #40
    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    Godwin's Law strikes again.

    The TC corollary to Godwin's Law: As a classical music discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Wagner or Mozart approaches 1.
    I wrote a song about dental floss. Did anyone's teeth get cleaner? ~ Frank Zappa

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  14. #41
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Have you read Nietzsche's Ecce homo? He was pretty much anti-German. Even trashed German cuisine and everything else German. After he fell out with Wagner, he blamed him for being overly German...
    Nietzsche seems to have been pretty much anti-everything but himself. I think both he and Hitler were ultimately nihilists, something that I don't think Wagner ever really was.

  15. #42
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    Nietzsche seems to have been pretty much anti-everything but himself. I think both he and Hitler were ultimately nihilists, something that I don't think Wagner ever really was.
    Hitler was not remotely a nihilist. Frankly, Nietzsche would have been utterly horrified to discover how badly Hitler had misunderstood him, and the evil to which Hitler was a part.

  16. #43
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    Hitler was not remotely a nihilist. Frankly, Nietzsche would have been utterly horrified to discover how badly Hitler had misunderstood him, and the evil to which Hitler was a part.
    I think they were both nihilistic in believing ultimately in no absolute value beyond the self. And on what basis could Nietzsche be "horrified"? At the immorality of it all? "Evil"?

  17. #44
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    Surely Milton Babbitt is high on the "misunderstood" list, and mostly because of that article, "Who Cares If You Listen?", which was not his title and frankly contradictory to the point he was making. And his reputation as an arch-serialist didn't help. I mean, he was an arch-serialist, but so much of music is light and witty, and people who come in leaving the preconceptions at the door are often then surprised at how tuneful his music is. But that's no surprise if you know that Babbitt was a huge fan of Broadway, and would sit down at a piano and bang out showtunes, from any musical you could name, with the least provocation.
    I don't think that Babbitt is misunderstood, his claims notwithstanding. (He might not be appreciated, but that is an entirely different matter.)

  18. #45
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    I think they were both nihilistic in believing ultimately in no absolute value beyond the self. And on what basis could Nietzsche be "horrified"? At the immorality of it all? "Evil"?
    Hitler believed in his racist worldview of the redemption of humanity through racial purity. That's as racist and evil as fork, but it is not nihilism.

    Nietzche was also a humanist, and would have been horrified at the evil done to his fellow human beings. He would never have condoned mass slaughter, destruction, and torture, and to say so is a horrid misunderstanding of his philosophy.
    Last edited by Knorf; Jun-07-2020 at 00:50.

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