Oct 28 2009

Music in Hell #1

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:20 pm

I’m not convinced there will be music in Hell, but if there is, it will presumably be ugly.

Which is what makes the following review of a piece by Rachmaninoff seem so unfair, since his music is usually quite beautiful….  but not everyone agreed.  From the music critic Cesar Cui, in the St. Petersburg News, March 16, 1897:  (from Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Music Invective)

If there were a conservatory in Hell, and if one of its talented students was to compose a symphony based on the story of the Seven Plagues of Egypt, and if he had written one similar to Rachmaninoff’s, he would have brilliantly accomplished his task and would have delighted the inhabitants of Hell.

This is surely hyperbole.  First off, one presumes that those in Hell do not enjoy their suffering, which means they would not actually LIKE ugly music.  And in any case, the really ugly music coming down the pike in the next century was much worse than whatever mild harmonies the great Russian pianist might have used.

I’m guessing that if Rachmaninoff was disturbing to Mr. Cui, then the music of Stravinsky (not the ugly music i was talking about) less than 20 years later must have caused him to spill his borscht and vodka.  And I’m willing to bet that Pierrot Lunaire made him choke on it.