- Aug 12, 2020
I suspect that this may be because classical music has become identified with "middle class" leisure pursuits in some of the countries of western Europe - and, clearly, above all, in the US.Twitter went a little nuts today for awhile over some tweet that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is an exemplar of elitist, exclusive, classist music. I decided not to explore at that particular time why the New York Philharmonic apparently was engaged in this conversation (or a podcast that was the basis of the conversation). I may look that up later when I'm more in the mood for such a discussion. However, I decided that I felt badly for ol' Ludwig, who is not around to defend his composition, and so I have been listening to assorted performances of that symphony tonight. I don't really care if it's elitist. It's ripping good music.
This was not the case in the former communist countries of central & eastern Europe, where classical music was seen as part of the state's cultural identity, hence classical performances were priced so as to be affordable for everyone, and appreciation of a country's classical legacy was hard-wired into the educational system and cultural landscape; attending concerts across eastern Europe, or the old Soviet Union - certainly, the Russian parts - opera houses and jazz hals were full of people of all ages and social backgrounds, and musical learning, knowledge and expertise was prized and respected in those cultures.
Anyway, this is a supremely and silly - not to mention, uneducated and uninformed - accusation, especially if directed at Beethoven (or Mozart, for that matter); they are not appropriate targets for such an accusation.
@SuperMatt mentions Wagner (and we are back to the old argument of separating the dancer from the dance, in the words of Yeats, or the artist from his art), but, Beethoven - in political terms - was a passionate radical; witness his re-dedication of the Eroica symphony (No 3, which - original - had been dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, a dedication that was furiously scratched out when the Corsican crowned himself Emperor, making it abundantly clear that the secular, egalitarian, and liberal goals of the revolution could be dispensed with, and discarded, at will).