NY Times classical critic on Trump’s “we write symphonies” remark

Posted on: August 1, 2017

In a Sunday (7/30) New York Times article, classical music critic Anthony Tommasini comments on President Trump’s July 6 speech extolling Western values in which Trump declared, “We write symphonies.” Tommasini writes that the president’s “invocation of the Western symphonic heritage … pressed a sore spot for me as a music critic. Nothing impedes the appreciation of classical music—and keeps potential listeners away—more than the perception that it is an elitist art form.… Few classical music fans, in my experience, argue that the Western symphonic repertory stands apart from or atop music of other cultures, or other types of Western music. But with just three words Mr. Trump buttressed this unfortunate perception. Did he mean that Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony is simply greater than, say, an Indian sitar master playing a classic raga? Or an exhilarating Indonesian gamelan ensemble? … ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ I’d argue, is just as profound as Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. But the Mahler, scored for large orchestra, chorus and two vocal soloists, is a whole lot longer, lasting more than 80 minutes.… It’s this large-scale quality, the sheer dimension of expression that the master composers strove for, that makes classical music different. This doesn’t mean it’s superior.”

Posted August 1, 2017