In my previous post
, I looked at an article written by someone who probably does not have much experience covering classical music (at least, judging by the other articles she's written). It addresses some of the problems that arise when publishers assign staffers who do not have the background to write knowingly about their given subject. For this post, however, I examine an article by The Telegraph
's regular classical music critic, Ivan Hewett. While his article
also contains historical falsehoods, I'm more concerned about the way Hewett resorts to the most familiar stereotypes to preach to the choir.
First, some background: In a survey conducted earlier this year by Classic FM, a UK-based radio station, Beethoven had more compositions on the favorites list than Mozart. This was the first time this has happened since the annual survey started in 1996, which is enough of a change to warrant some comment. The first article The Telegraph
ran on this coup, "Beethoven beats Mozart to be crowned most popular composer for first time,"
offers an explanation: Beethoven's seventh symphony serves as the soundtrack to an intense scene in the popular movie The King's Speech
, which prompted people to seek out more of his music.
Perhaps this article was a bit too dry in its cold reporting of facts and analysis. Where is the breathless adulation of these Great Masters? So, Hewett offers his own explanation in "Why Beethoven rules supreme over Mozart."
Rather than discuss why people might have adjusted their answers in the poll, he effectively proclaims that the poll has finally gotten it right.
"Beethoven is classical music's titan. More than that, he is the perfection of the romantic artist-hero," Hewett declares. Here's where my perspective as a musicologist differs from that of most music fans. I cannot argue against Beethoven being a "romantic artist-hero," but rather than using that as proof of his greatness, I see it as an interesting product of nineteenth-century culture. Our concept of the "artist-hero" is based
on the Romantic perception of Beethoven, so of course
he's the best example of it; it's a tautology. This statement should be unpacked and explored, not taken as evidence in itself.