Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mr. Lebrecht, I Salute You

There are those who are for a canon, those opposed; those who relish tradition, those who want to smash it into a million little Po-Mo bits. Equally persuasive and compelling arguments might be made for both sides.

But then there is Norman Lebrecht, whose Cassandra-like wailing about The Death has amused non-initiates, infuriated those on the inside (except for many critics) and, in a the-mere-fact-of-observing-alters-what-is-being-observed way has done all he can to drive the nail in deeper. He laments and yet also encourages and supports The Death. Alas, we've heard it all before. Who Killed Classical Music? Look no further, as the answers are soon to be revealed.

For all his overblown statements, agenda-ridden derision, and career-enhancing grandstanding cum muckraking, this article, a grand mol dilettante's excoriation of that minor non-progressive (and therefore utterly worthless) composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, ensures his place in the grand pantheon of irresponsible modernist thinking (that which does not further the discipline cannot in fact be any good).

For those clickphobes out there, here's a choice sample, the essay's final sweep:

"Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours. Beyond a superficial beauty and structural certainty, Mozart has nothing to give to mind or spirit in the 21st century. Let him rest. Ignore the commercial onslaught. Play the Leningrad Symphony. Listen to music that matters."

Mr. Lebrecht, my hat goes off to you: you've really outdone yourself, helped me see the error of my ways, to realize what a midcult fool I've been. All these years of enjoying this composer you now so wisely tell me is, in fact "...the superstore wallpaper of classical music, the composer who pleases most and offends least," whose operas have been an (apparently false) utter revelation to me, whose piano sonatas (I thought) contain lessons for the ages, and whose sense of pacing, humor, humanity, melody, and everything I like about music were all just cooked up with an ear to the market. How easily the whole world has fallen headfirst for this (now, thanks to you) apparent fraud who aimed to please. Age of Enlightenment my ass! We should all be so ashamed of ourselves, celebrating the life and music of this unimportant, antithetical-to-progress composer with his arrested development and lurid sense of personal values and hygiene, his shitjokes and obsequiously effusive suckups to those of wealth or power, all of which otherwise masked an uninteresting life. Maybe we'd like him better if he had spent more time being amusing and profound, thinking deep thoughts, worrying about his effect on history and less time writing all that mindless music. Hard to say. But I for one am now turned around.

Someone also told me that Shakespeare was a sexually questionable third rate poet who altered history to please Queen Elizabeth and that Vermeer just liked to paint pretty pictures for ooldes of money. So glad people point out these things; I hate, after all, to be typical.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

please excuse my ignorance, but what are "Po-Mo bits"?

6:31 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...


7:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Bermel said...

I thought they were the dregs left at the bottom of a bowl of Jambalaya.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Henry Holland said...

Play the Leningrad Symphony. Listen to music that matters

If it's "music that matters" that he's looking for, why on earth is he singling out the awful Leningrad Symphony by the wildly overrated Shostakovich? Ooohhh, that's right, because it's not really about the actual music, it's about the backstory.

I'm not a big fan of Mozart's music, but mein gott! I have ears and they tell me that Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni are two of the greatest operas ever written and that the last 3 symphonies are blazing masterpieces. I mean, Don Giovanni *was* revolutionary at the time it was written and everyone knew it.

I wonder if Lebrecht is just getting in an early "Oh, I'm so bored with Mozart in this anniversary year" piece, to be ahead of the pack as it were?

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

The thing is (thank goodness), NO ONE pays attention to him anymore (I'd be interested to know if there is indeed even another critic who thinks he's doing anything but trying to get people to gawk at his idiosy). He needs to just KEEP writing stuff like this so that people will even further discount his dumb rantings.

10:42 AM  

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