Berg Was Right

Alex Ross posted this image from the hand of Alban Berg, a graphic depiction of the careers of the two pre-eminent late-Romantic composers. Ross wonders if Berg would have changed his mind if he had heard the Four Last Songs and Capriccio. I know Ross is a fan of Strauss, as are many people, and I don’t begrudge that. I, however, absolutely loathe Strauss, and it was a performance of Capriccio that cemented that loathing for me. I admire his skill as a composer in setting down notes and handling material, but I find his aesthetic and personal values, as he expresses them in his music, absolutely repulsive, and to my ears the opera is about an artist seeking to please his social superiors in the Nazi party that he wished to join. Berg was right.



I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

One comment

  • You know that I also am in general repelled by Strauss’s music, with a few exceptions. I don’t hear his despicable political views in the music per se, but more a kind of Nietzschean excess and bombast, an intense self-regard, and an elevation of the musical elements that are, to me, the wrong ones. His decadence and disturbing frivolity are like a fun-house mirror showing Wagner in a dwarfed and distorted reflection. But he was an effing great orchestrator.

Comments are closed.