Musical riots: a critic picks the “top ten”

Posted on: December 3, 2014

“In the 19th, 20th and even the 21st centuries, classical music has had the power to touch the rawest of nerves of taste, feeling, politics, and identity,” writes Tom Service in Tuesday’s (12/2) Guardian (London). Service then offers his pick of “the 10 most infamous musical riots,” with brief comments providing background and context. “Vienna, March 31st, 1913. Arnold Schoenberg conducted a programme of his own Chamber Symphony, music by his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern … as well as Zemlinsky’s Four Orchestral Songs and Mahler’s ‘Kindertotenlieder.’ Lovely stuff. Except they never got to the Mahler in the golden hall of the Musikverein: shouts during Berg’s piece that the composer should be committed to a lunatic asylum … descended into physical altercations between Berg’s supporters and his opponents. … Proving that protests continue in our own time, the [Metropolitan Opera] was again the scene of discontent in October this year, when performances of John Adams’s ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ were picketed outside the theatre. The demonstrations were only the latest chapter in the polemical history of Adams’s opera about the murder of the disabled American Jewish tourist Leon Klinghoffer during the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985. Whatever else the protests demonstrate, they show that classical music still has an inflammatory power in contemporary culture.” To read Alex Ross’s recent Symphony article about musicians and politics, click here.

Posted December 3, 3014