Greatest insults in classical music


1st Jan 2015 Music

Greatest insults in classical music

From vicious music put-downs to scathing remarks about appearance, these classical music greats sure didn’t hold back when speaking of their fellow composers.  

1. Aaron Copland on Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 5 


"Listening to the fifth symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes."



2. Sir Thomas Beecham on Edward Elgar 



"The musical equivalent of St Pancras Station."



3. Hector Berlioz on George Frideric Handel 



"A tub of pork and beer." 




4. Louis Schneider on Debussy's La Mer 


"The audience expected the ocean. Something big, something colossal, but they were served instead with some agitated water in a saucer." 



5. Sergei Rachmaninoff on Igor Stravinsky 



"He was a six and a half foot scowl." 



6. Arnold Bax on Johann Sebastian Bach



"All Bach's last movements are like the running of a sewing machine." 



7. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on George Frideric Handel



"Handel is only fourth rate. He is not even interesting." 



8. Camille Saint-Saëns on Maurice Ravel 



"If he'd been making shell cases during the war it would have been better for music." 



9. Richard Strauss on Arnold Schoenberg 



"He'd be better off shovelling snow than scribbling on manuscript paper." 



10. Sergei Prokofiev on Igor Stravinsky 



"Bach on the wrong notes." 



11. Gioachino Rossini on Richard Wagner's Lohengrin


“One can’t judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend hearing it a second time.”



12. Richard Wagner on Gioachino Rossini



"After Rossini dies, who will there be to promote his music?”



13. Ralph Vaughn Williams on Gustav Mahler



“A very tolerable imitation of a composer.”



14. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on Alexander Borodin



“He can’t compose a single line without somebody’s help.”



15. Benjamin Britten on Johannes Brahms



“I play through all his music every so often to see if I am right about him. I usually find I underestimated last time how bad he was”



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