Mostly still wrong

Here is the quiz from Saturday with the blanks filled in and the rest of the answers.

Spoiler

1. Crashing Siberias, volcano hell, Krakatoa, sea-bottom crawlers.
Prokofiev; Scythian Suite

2. Siegfried was abominable. Not a trace of coherent melodies. It would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of these hideous discords.
Wagner; Richard Strauss (who later recanted), critic

3. It is mathematical music evolved from an unimaginative brain … How it ever came to be known as The Tenth Symphony is a mystery to us.
Brahms; First Symphony

4. The overabundance of dissonances and the incompetence in handling vocal parts in Boris Gudonov reach the point where the listener can not be sure of the composer’s intentions and is unable to distinguish intentional wrong notes from the wrong notes of the performers.
Mussorgsky

5. The Liszt Concerto is filthy and vile. It suggests Chinese orchestral performances as described by enterprising and self-sacrificing travelers. This may be a specimen of the School of the Future for aught I know. If it is, the future will throw the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven into the rubbish bin.

6. If the reader were so rash as to purchase any of Béla Bartók’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, other with the flat of the hand. None requires fingers to perform nor ears to listen to.

7. Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini sometimes sounds like a plague of insects in the Amazon valley, sometimes like a miniature of the Day of Judgment … and for a change goes lachrymose.

8. It must be admitted that to the larger part of our public, Brahms is still an incomprehensible terror.

9. If it were possible to imagine His Satanic Majesty writing an opera, Carmen would be the sort of work he might be expected to turn out. After hearing it, we seem to have been assisting at some unholy rites, weirdly fascinating, but painful.
Bizet

10. As a kind of drug, no doubt Scriabin’s music has a certain significance, but it is wholly superfluous. We already have cocaine, morphine, hashish, heroin, anhalonium, and innumerable similar productions, to say nothing of alcohol. Sure that is enough. On the other hand, we have only one music. Why must we degrade an art into a spiritual narcotic? Why is it more artistic to use eight horns and five trumpets than to use eight brandies and five double whiskies?

11. Cunning must be the coinnoiseur, indeed, who, while listening to his music, can form the slightest idea when wrong notes are played — its difficulties to the eye being doubled by the composer’s eccentricity of notation.
Chopin

12. To hear a whole program of Ravel’s works is like watching some midget or pygmy doing clever, but very small, things within a limited scope. Moreover, the almost reptilian cold-bloodedness, which one suspects of having been consciously cultivated, of most of M. Ravel’s music is almost repulsive when heard in bulk; even its beauties are like the markings on snakes and lizards.

13. Beethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of bags of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer.
John Ruskin, critic

14. Schoenberg’s symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande is not just filled with wrong notes, in the sense of Strauss’s Don Quixote; it is a fifty-minute-long protracted wrong note. This is to be take literally. What else may hide behind these cacaphonies is quite impossible to find out.

15. The Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune has pretty sonority, but one does not find in it the least musical idea, properly speaking; it resembles a piece of music as the palette used by an artist in his work resembles a picture. Debussy did not create a style; he cultivated an absence of style, logic, and common sense.
Debussy; Saint-Saens, critic

16. There is only one thing for a man like [Richard] Strauss to do if he desires to escape oblivion, and that is to plunge into the grossest materialism in music and seek to puzzle or shock you, because he cannot touch your heart.

17. Mahler had not much to say in his Fifth Symphony and occupied a wondrous time in saying it. His manner is ponderous, his matter imponderable.

18. … I shall hot criticize this music; quite to the contrary, I will say that this is wonderful barbaric music, the best barbaric music in the world. But when I am asked whether this music gives me pleasure or an artistic satisfaction, whether it makes a deep impression, I must categorically say: “No!”
Prokofiev; Scythian Suite

19. The Paleozoic Crawl, turned into tone with all the resources of the modern orchestra, clamored for attention at the Philadelphia Orchestra concert when Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was given its first airing on this side of the vast Atlantic. It was the primitive run riot, almost formless and without definite tonality, save for insistently beating rhythms that made the tom-tom melodies of the gentle Congo tribes seem super-sophisticated in comparison … Without description or program, the work might have suggested a New Year’s Eve rally of moonshine addicts and the simple pastimes of early youth and maidens, circumspectly attired in a fig leaf apiece.

20. The Pathetique Symphony threads all the foul ditches and sewers of human despair; it is an unclean as music well can be.
Tchaikovsky

21. I can compare Le carnaval romain by Berlioz to nothing but the caperings and gibberings of a big baboon, over-excited by a dose of alcoholic stimulus.

22. … if the crude expression be permissible, I should say that what was at the back of Mr. Varèse’s mind was an alarm of fire at the Zoo, with the beasts and birds all making appropriate noises — the lion roaring, the hyena howling, the monkeys chattering, the parrots squealing, with the curses of the distracted attendants cutting through them all.
Hyperprism

23. Again I see his curious asymmetrical face, the pointed fawn ears, the projecting cheek bones — the man is a wraith from the East; his music was heard long ago in the hill temples of Borneo; was made as a symphony to welcome the head-hunters with their ghastly spoils of war!
Debussy

24. Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto sounds, in its brutal genius, in its abolition of all formal limits, like a rhapsody of nihilism.

25. (the amoeba weeps)
Webern

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2 thoughts on “Mostly still wrong”

  1. I was mostly at sea on this one… except for #19, which I recognized instantly. It’s easily the worst selection in Fantasia, including the interview with the soundtrack. The pity is that the animation that goes with it is top-notch, so I find myself watching with the sound way down.

  2. There were a few that might be familiar to people who’ve studied the history of music or are easy to guess, but I didn’t expect anyone to get more than those few. This quiz was primarily for entertainment, though it may suggest something about the worth of music criticism.

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