Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wittgenstein and Richard Strauss

Nothing much for you today except for this little anecdote about the musical tastes of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein:
Wittgenstein's reactions to the program are indicative of his musical tastes. Bach, Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert and Brahms's compositions are usually received with enthusiasm, while those of Strauss usually avoided. On October the 4th, 1912, for example, Wittgenstein and Pinsent attend a concert “with Brahm's Requiem "splendidly performed--those climaxes in it are simply indescribable--W said he had never enjoyed it more--and he has heard it pretty often…..The second half of the concert began with two selections from Strauss' 'Salome': W refused to go in for them, and stayed outside till the Beethoven….The Beethoven following was the 7th symphony--gorgeous."
From here.


David said...

Bryan, it sounds like LW had impeccable taste in music, what with Bach, Mozart, Handel, Ludwig van, Schu(bert)+(mann) and Brahms. The only weakness in that list is the absence of Haydn!

I wonder though, whether the philosopher might have taken in the whole concert, Strauss included, if the program had featured one of his tone poems (composed between 1887 and 1903) - between 10 and 25 years earlier than the dates of the performance. [The Pinsent diaries record the years 1912-1914.] It seems to me that the gap between the sounds of the Masters in the LW-approved list above and compositions like Aus Italien or Don Quixote is narrower than the leap to the more radical features of Salome (composed in 1905).

On a quick scan of the essay from which you source your anecdote, I did note that the philosopher and I share the same opinion of Mahler (negative). I should really become more familiar with his writings on philosophy.

Bryan Townsend said...

I also thought the only name missing was that of Haydn! Thanks for reminding me of Wittgenstein's negative judgement on Mahler. I had quite forgotten that since it has been a while since I browsed through all of that essay.

Wittgenstein's philosophical writings are difficult to read, but interesting nonetheless. I think the most difficult book I have ever read was Anscombe's Introduction to the Tractatus!