My brother is currently a freshman at Peabody, and of course that means an exponential number of concerts for my parents to attend (I think one of the great sacrifices a parent makes during your academic career is the constant attendance of your performances). The latest one was of the Saint-Saens “Organ Symphony.” Apparently it went smashingly well, but it seems at some point during the evening my mother got into it with a music theorist who claims that Bach is not a great composer; that “the theorist thinks Bach is technically adept and emotionally empty. All he sees is musical DNA, no spirit.”
And to that I say: funny, that’s exactly what I would say about Mozart’s chamber pieces, except I would replace “spiritless” with “smug and show-offy.” (To save myself from you Mozartophiles, I will note that he does opera extremely well.) As musicologists almost universally agree that Mozart is among the top three composers of all time, I’m fairly certain that a lot of people disagree with me. But you know who else is a top-three member? Bach. (Also Beethoven, but Beethoven is perfect.)
I enjoy Bach very much, myself, and find his music quite passionate in that controlled Baroque kind of way. You know what I mean–it’s all fire and glory, but caged for an age still bound by strict propriety. So I’m with my mother in her belief that this music theorist is a dope.
Yet it does remind us of the variance of opinion, and leads me to query: what otherwise genius composer are you just not feelin’?
(And if you want to add a literary spin: I hate Faulkner. Discuss!)
Edit: My mother wishes me to note that the music theorist in question was not from Peabody. So there you are.