In case you didn’t know, our local paper here, the Globe, has started running blogs on its entertainment site. (I suppose it’s good that they’re trying, but if they have money for this sort of thing, I wish they’d spend it on some actual column inches for classical music once in a while, considering how much of it goes on in their alleged metropolitan area. But I digress.)
Anyways, Geoff Edgers has been posting an episodic interview with Ted Libbey, who’s just written a tome called The NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music. (Apparently NPR plays other types of music than the annoying fake-world-music baby-boomer-guilt-assuaging acoustic trash it uses for bumpers on “Morning Edition.” But I digress.)
Anyways, Part 3 of this interview is up, and there’s a bit in it that really made me narrow my eyes. Asked what composers he’s personally sick of, Libbey says:
Of the canonic “great” composers, Robert Schumann is surely the most overrated. That doesn’t mean I’m sick of him…yet.
Everybody’s got their own tastes, of course, but when a writer on classical music disses Schumann, the most logophilic composer out there, my eyebrow goes up. Schumann not only is an unparalleled master of text-setting, but is one of the only composers to successfully create instrumental works with convincing literary structures—musical short stories and novels that can favorably compare with their word-based counterparts. (Check out the Davidsbündlertänze, an uncanny musicalization of a set of linked descriptive vignettes… and I, at least, am convinced that the Eichendorff-Liederkreis is an embedded meta-narrative in the style of Schumann’s favorite novelist, Jean Paul.)
Schumann can be a tough nut to crack for performers (it was for me, anyway, but once I got through the shell, yum), but it’s significant that singers, who deal with words on a daily basis, love him almost without reservation. So I’m a little suspicious of any writer who doesn’t like Schumann, just as I’d be a little suspicious of any painter who couldn’t appreciate Debussy, or any pastry chef who didn’t care for Strauss, or any mad megalomanaical supervillian without a jukebox full of Wagner.