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December 20, 2005 by AK

My problem with Schnittke

J. Cassian discusses Norman Lebrecht’s recent dismissal of Mozart as a “progenitor of Muzak.” (A.C. Douglas recommends that the critic up his meds.) “Mozart, it is safe to say, failed to take music one step forward,” according to Norman L. — no kidding! — and thus is not entitled to greatness.

Lebrecht’s musings on Prokofiev and Stalin, on Mel Gibson, on Riccardo Muti, etc. vary from uninformed to idiotic but stay within the mainstream of modern liberal Anglo-American thought, shallow as it is. His attack on Mozart is so extraordinary it almost makes him sound deep.

Among the events advertised on Lebrecht’s site, we can find this:

Norman Lebrecht chairs pre-concert forum at Wigmore Hall, London, on the music of Alfred Schnittke.

I’d be far more comfortable if Lebrecht hated Schnittke with the same intensity he now does Mozart. As is clear from his published conversations, Schnittke (in his mature years) was a serious thinker, conservative and traditionalist to a major degree, not a playful deconstructive primate, nor a cultural Marxist. (Schnittke’s poor health kept high the chance of his dying any day for years.) Asked which composer was his most favorite, he named Mozart. But why do the types that profess to love Schnittke tend to be more like Lebrecht than like Schnittke in his ripe years?


1 comment »

  1. J.Cassian says:

    “Asked which composer was his most favorite, he named Mozart. But why do the types that profess to love Schnittke tend to be more like Lebrecht than like Schnittke in his ripe years?”

    I’ll have to pay more attention to Schnittke. This sounds a bit like Stravinsky, who always expressed his immense admiration for Tchaikovsky even at the height of that composer’s unfashionability amongst modernists.

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