Filed under: Commentary
Sunday morning, August 5, I was listening to our local classical music station on the radio. The work being broadcast was the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Mandolins in G Major, RV 532. The mandolin soloists were James Tyler and Douglas Wootten, performing with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner. This is one of Vivaldi’s most popular concertos because of the immediate appeal of the outer movements (there are three movements) and the very gentle, almost fragile, middle movement.
After the recording was finished, the classical music announcer said that the two mandolins were having a “conversation, indeed, almost a competition.” Because of that aspect of “competition,” the classical music announcer compared the Vivaldi concerto to the Charlie Daniels Band’s recording of The Devil Goes Down to Georgia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece, it involves a young man who enters into a competition of violin playing with the Devil, and to make a long story short, he bests the devil in the competition. The host of the radio program continued along this line of competition between artists, and said that she knew of several operas where, for example, there was a duet between two sopranos. The host wondered aloud if the two sopranos ever got along because they seemed to be competing in the opera. It was made clear that she was referring to the sopranos themselves, and not the characters they were portraying.
Since the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Mandolins is obviously for two instruments, I was a little surprised by the banal comparison with The Devil Goes Down to Georgia, and not Dueling Banjos (written in 1955 by Art Smith. It came to prominence when it was performed on the Andy Griffith show in the early 1960s). I do not know whether to chalk that up to a mistake on the host’s part or not, but frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me.
I point out that this classical music announcer is the same individual who called J.S. Bach the “Tim Tebow of the Baroque period,” declared that the women in the audience of Franz Liszt’s concerts threw their underwear on stage, and that Chopin and Liszt had hair like rock stars, forget the fact that that was the style back in the middle 1800s. In addition, at a live panel discussion, I heard this individual state, and I quote, “Composers think to themselves, I will be damned if I am going to write a piece with a melodic line that can be sung.” This individual also called the Bach thematic catalogue numbers (the BWV numbers) “Bach’s license plate numbers.” There was no explanation given as to what BWV really stood for.
In my youth, I always admired classical music disc jockeys simply because they seemed to know so much about music. None of them resorted to trite remarks, totally incorrect statements, or diverted the listener’s thoughts with inane attempts at humor. Vivaldi, let alone Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and all of the great composers, truly cannot be harmed by the pedestrian prose of the musically inept, but this individual’s musical and artistic impoverishment is unique at this station. This station plays music which does not need a deluded attempt at humor, or a deluded attempt to make it “trendy” so that it fits our present milieu, and make it “cute”. All this individual does is succeed in denuding great music of its intellectual challenge, poetic imagery, and in the end, it subverts our thoughts from the music to frivolous confections. This classical music host is a distraction, not a contributor.
I wish the other announcers at this station would take this individual aside and teach her that the artistry of music transcends the ordinary. Every other classical music host at the station seems to realize that. Perhaps she should go back to college. Or, at least, perhaps she could read the CD liner notes.
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