the banal and empty theatrical and virtuoso-compositions which were then popular. It chafed him no end that so soon after the deaths of Beethoven and Schubert, the public taste had been won by the likes of Rossini.It is a lamentable fact that a lot of the so-called supporters of classical music actually do more harm than good. Some typical examples are the music educator who relentlessly teaches only the superficial qualities of music with no hints of its depths, the music critic who writes only to flatter his readers and is always in tune with the political correctness of the day, the composer who sticks to gimmicks and tricks, the performer who acts out the theater of the music with hair tossing and distracting clothing but doesn't put across the music very well and, a curious example, the fellow-next-door, regular-bloke type who explains to you that classical music is all stuck up and stuff.
This latter fellow is the topic of this post and we find him lurking in the pages of The Telegraph: Alan Titchmarsh tell us to "Stop being so snobbish about classical music"! The subhead tritely informs us that
Well sure, Alan, but what's your point? As this is an entirely false opposition, signaled by the "while", I'm sure you are trying to pull the wool over our eyes in some way. He begins:
While I’ve always preferred the likes of Beethoven and Mozart to more popular forms of music, I believe that music is something to be shared and enjoyed by all
What is it about classical music that encourages snobbery? In most walks of life such behaviour is frowned upon, and yet, in the world of “serious” music, it is alive and kicking. Since my teenage years, classical music has been my preferred genre. Oh, I bought She Loves You by The Beatles, but it was simply for street cred, though the term itself had yet to be invented.Nice scare quotes around "serious". How dare a mere musical genre think itself serious? Well into the article we find out that the writer is actually a professional radio host:
for the past two years or so I have presented its Saturday morning show – a mix of exactly the kind of music that I would listen to at that time of day and at that time of the week. It is an eclectic confection, majoring on the giants – Beethoven and Mozart, Wagner and Chopin, Schubert and Handel – but it also has room for Lehar, along with good film scores and light music composers such as Robert Farnon and Eric Coates.He finally gets to his complaint:
But for some “serious” music lovers the net is cast a little too wide, and the fact that the presenters appear to be real human beings who admit to being au fait with other forms of musical life is just too much to bear. To them the world of classical music is an exclusive one, to be preserved for the enjoyment of the select few who are possessed of a superior intellect.There are those scare quotes again. It seems that, while he loves music, the lighter forms at least, what he hates is the idea that there are levels of aesthetic quality. The idea that some music is more challenging, more dense and requires more patience and understanding, he just won't accept.
Well, they are entitled to their opinion, but I would rather its appeal was broadened and that the sheer joy that can be derived from music was shared by as wide a range of folk as possible. Alas, musical snobs will all too often confuse accessibility with “dumbing down”. There is, I maintain, a world of difference. It is possible to popularise a subject without losing its integrity; something I have tried to achieve, over many years, in the world of gardening.I would like for the whole world to appreciate and experience the sheer joy of Beethoven's late quartets, but I think it is unlikely. Most people are going to prefer Beyoncé and I accept that. But if you want to convince me that Beethoven and Beyoncé are on the same level of aesthetic worth, then I think you will have a tough job doing so.
Alan, it's like beer: there is Schlitz Lite and then there is Belgian Morte Subite. The latter, brewed with "wild" yeasts and at 9% alcohol is going to be just a tad more challenging. There is fizzy Lambrusco and then there is aged Barolo. Don't mix them up!
Also, don't make the entirely different aesthetic mistake of confusing difficulty with quality. There is also extremely complex and dense music that is of little aesthetic worth. But Alan is not likely to fall into that error.
Back to that first quote, the one that trashes Rossini. The truth of the matter is that Beethoven and Schubert both envied Rossini a bit for his effortless command of opera. Despite the fact that Rossini is immediately enjoyable, it is also very good music. So let's end with some. Here is the overture to La gazza ladra:
And just for the record, I'm an elitist, not a snob.