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"like staring at a cow for 45 minutes"
October 17, 2013 5:21 AM   Subscribe

21 of the best insults in classical music

And if all the hatin' is getting you down, unharsh your mellow with 22 rather more inspirational quotes by composers, from the same site (UK radio station Classic FM).
posted by greenish (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter: what a giftless bastard.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:36 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really wish we had these on posters in grade school instead of that back-patting drivel from 'inspirational' people.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:39 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Bach on the wrong notes" is not necessarily an insult.
posted by swift at 5:43 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cute, its like one line rap battles that don't rhyme for starched collars.

Am I doing this right?

I laughed pretty hard at this.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:45 AM on October 17, 2013


#2 is a pretty sick burn.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:49 AM on October 17, 2013


Pah. Not even CLOSE to the best insults. Here's some stuff that was said just about Wagner:

"Wagner’s music ... is the music of a demented eunuch.” -- Figaro, Paris, July 26, 1876

“Wagner is evidently mad.” -- Berlioz

“Wagner is the antichrist incarnate of art.” -- Max Kalbeck, Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung, April 28, 1880

“Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches ..." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
posted by kyrademon at 5:54 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


"The musical equivalent of St. Pancras Station".

That's not an insult, that's the highest praise.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 5:56 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Funny-looking bloke, Berlioz. Big hair, narrow shoulders.

Also, St. Pancras Station is fantastic.

on preview, jinx

and to abuse the edit function, that would, yes, be a sewing machine, but a sublime one.
posted by glasseyes at 5:57 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's not even the best composer in the Beatles.
posted by three blind mice at 6:00 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with the digs on Handel. Dude is seriously boring.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:06 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes all I want is Pork and Beer...
and countertenors.
Pork, beer and countertenors. That'll do.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:06 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The musical equivalent of St Pancras Station." Sir Thomas Beecham on Elgar

That one couldn't get more English if he'd said it to the Queen at Ascot.
posted by pracowity at 6:09 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sir Thomas Beecham was the king of the musical putdown:

"Malcolm Sargent was conducting a series of concerts in Tel Aviv at a time when there were many Palestinian attacks. One concert had to be halted part of the way through when the hall came under fire from the rebels. Beecham, on hearing of this; "I hadn't realised that Arabs were so musical".

And of course:

"One particular Beecham story is, surely, among the most re-told of all - that of the rehearsal of the Boccherini-Grutzmacher "Cello Concerto in B Flat". The soloist, Guillhermina Suggia, was not having a good day, to put it mildly, and the great man was sorely pained. He stopped the rehearsal and looked at her sadly. "Madam, you have between your legs one of the greatest instruments that God has devised for man's pleasure, and all that you can do to the damned thing is scratch at it!"
posted by daveje at 6:16 AM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Damn. They don't make insults like they used to, do they? These are fucking on point.
posted by entropone at 6:18 AM on October 17, 2013


"The musical equivalent of St. Pancras Station".

That's not an insult, that's the highest praise.


He actually compared him to the towers of St. Pancras Station, which at the time of his speaking was a closed, overly ornate, horribly outdated hotel that was partially being used as railroad offices.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


For insults, the game of cricket offers plenty in the form of sledging. Here are 20 of the more coarse ones and, with some overlap, 10 more. Though a personal favorite isn't listed:

One of the all time great bowlers, Glen McGrath was getting frustrated at being unable to dismiss little known Zimbabwean cricketer Eddo Brandes.

McGrath: "Why are you so fat?"

Brandes: "Because every time I make love to your wife, she gives me a biscuit."
posted by Wordshore at 6:27 AM on October 17, 2013 [18 favorites]


In the restricted space of three measures, [your least favorite composer] scored 114 offenses against musical art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.
posted by kmz at 6:41 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since I'm between recitals during which I play Handel and Bach, amongst others, I can't even laugh much about these, which would be my usual reaction. Handel: better than one'd have thought. Bach: well, don't play it like a sewing machine, it actually helps.
posted by Namlit at 6:57 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


He actually compared him to the towers of St. Pancras Station, which at the time of his speaking was a closed, overly ornate, horribly outdated hotel that was partially being used as railroad offices.

No central heating and only 9 bathrooms for 200 bedrooms (none on-suite) - that was a bit rough even for the average stif upper lipped Englishman
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:04 AM on October 17, 2013


He actually compared him to the towers of St. Pancras Station, which at the time of his speaking was a closed, overly ornate, horribly outdated hotel that was partially being used as railroad offices.

I just want to say I LOVE METAFILTER SO MUCH!!!!!!!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Pork, beer and countertenors.
posted by mhoye at 7:26 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Netti Fritti
posted by scose at 7:29 AM on October 17, 2013


I've been to St Pancras Station, and you sir are no St Pancras Station.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:36 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's some stuff that was said just about Wagner:

Or as Mark Twain apparently said, His music is better than it sounds.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:38 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Concert-goer: Have you ever conducted any Stockhausen?

Sir Thomas Beecham: No, but I stepped in some once.

Probably apocryphal.
posted by Segundus at 7:40 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Competitions are for horses, not artists. - Bartok
posted by fishhouses at 7:43 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I like your opera. I think I will set it to music."

Beethoven for the simple, to-the-point burn. (Although who was the poor recipient of said barb?)

I think I'd only heard the Rossini-on-Wagner quote before ("beautiful moments, but awful quarters of an hour"). Though I certainly knew of no love lost between such as RW/Brahms.

And among the inspirational quotes, I think Lenny's was a fancy way of saying, "I work well on tight deadlines."
posted by NorthernLite at 7:48 AM on October 17, 2013


Beethoven for the simple, to-the-point burn. (Although who was the poor recipient of said barb?)
I've heard that it was regarding Ferdinando Paer, probably with respect to Leonora (the same story as Beethoven's Fideleo). But I've also heard the quote attributed to Mozart, so I'd take it with a big heaping pile of salt.
posted by Lame_username at 8:16 AM on October 17, 2013


These are awesome except for #10 which clearly indicates Mr. Berlioz is not someone I'd want to invite to a barbecue.
posted by yerfatma at 8:26 AM on October 17, 2013


For a wonderful review of the history of such quotes, check out Slonimsky's book on Musical Invective. The Tchaikovsky violin concerto was heard as "a stink in the ear."
posted by njohnson23 at 8:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of the headline insult - "Listening to the Fifth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes" - it's funny because it's true. Is Vaughan Williams considered really easy to play or something? Because we were always playing his stuff in my (not particularly competitive) high school band.

“Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches ..." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

To be fair, I don't think Nietzsche's beef with Wagner was primarily about the music, in the end.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:34 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The musical equivalent of St Pancras Station." Sir Thomas Beecham on Elgar

That one couldn't get more English if he'd said it to the Queen at Ascot.



She's a good sheila, Bruce, and not at all stuck up.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:38 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Leonard Bernstein once said of English classical music that it was “too much organ voluntary in Lincoln Cathedral, too much Coronation in Westminster Abbey, too much lark ascending, too much clodhopping on the fucking village green”.
posted by spitbull at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


kyrademon, I would buy and mount a poster of Wagner with those quotes on it.

And I don't even hate Wagner!
posted by clarknova at 9:10 AM on October 17, 2013


Q: What's the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?
A: A bassoon burns longer
posted by ericbop at 9:58 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lexicon of Musical Invective

Raymond Smullyan has a funny story, in his book 5000 B.C: a musician goes to visit a rival, who is hard at work composing. Seeing operatic scores scattered on the piano, he says "Oh! I thought you composed from memory".
posted by thelonius at 1:09 PM on October 17, 2013


The last one ("Bach on the wrong notes") might or might not be true of Stravinsky's music, but it is one of the best-constructed and wittiest insults I've ever read.

I note that either no one dared insult Mozart and Beethoven, or (more likely) the list curator couldn't find or wouldn't dare look for any.

Also, my, was Tchaikovksy contentious, if we disregard the usual apocrypha coefficient.
posted by seyirci at 1:16 PM on October 17, 2013


Think my favourite is one that Charles Ives is supposed to have said to a heckler at one of his concerts: "Stand up and use your ears like a man!".

You don't get a wild ride to heaven on the back of a pretty tune...
posted by Devonian at 1:23 PM on October 17, 2013


Oh, are we telling music jokes?

Q: What's the definition of a minor second?

A: Two oboes playing in perfect unison.
posted by darchildre at 1:37 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still not quite sure we're actually telling music jokes. But okay then.

What's similar between a viola solo and an orgasm?

You know it's coming and you can't do anything about it

(unrelated, sorta:...how to make a Viola player use more vibrato? Write "solo" in his part...)
posted by Namlit at 2:20 PM on October 17, 2013


Berlioz has amazing hair. Pic #10.
posted by zardoz at 2:22 PM on October 17, 2013


Q: What's the definition of perfect pitch?
A: When you throw an accordion into a dumpster and it lands on a banjo.

(Substitute instruments at will, of course)
posted by ninazer0 at 2:31 AM on October 18, 2013


From NPR:

MAUCERI: ... the question was asked, after Wagner had written one of his tomes on the theory of the theater, they - someone came up to Verdi and said, Maestro Verdi, we've just read Maestro Wagner's books on the theory of the theater. Do you have a theory of the theater? And Verdi took a moment and said, yes, I do. The theater should be full.
posted by atbash at 6:20 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can you make a list of insults from classical composers and leave out Max Reger?

Written to a critic: "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me."
posted by dfan at 11:59 AM on October 19, 2013


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