10 Composer vs. Composer Insults

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Getty Images

Sir Thomas Beecham was a 19th and 20th century English conductor known for his groundbreaking work with orchestras all across the UK. He was also well known for his acid tongue and his uncompromising opinions on all aspects of music, from critics to instruments, from compositions to their composers.

The sound of the harpsichord, for instance, was likened by Beecham to the sound of “two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm.” Beethoven’s 7th Symphony was dismissed as “like a lot of yaks jumping about.” Edward Elgar’s 1st Symphony was the musical equivalent of “the towers of St. Pancras station.” Bach had “too much counterpoint—and what is worse, Protestant counterpoint.” And asked if he had ever conducted anything by the German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, Beecham supposedly replied, “No. But I once trod in some.”

But that’s not to say that Sir Thomas Beecham was the only musical impresario not afraid to voice their opinion on their contemporaries. From Beethoven to Stravinsky, 10 of the classical music world’s most cutting zingers are listed here.

1. WEBER ON BEETHOVEN

Beecham wasn’t alone in disliking Beethoven’s 7th Symphony—despite it being an instant hit with the audience on its debut in 1813. On opening night, Beethoven conducted the symphony himself, jumping into the air and flinging his arms around dramatically on the rostrum, and gave such an extraordinary performance that he instantly acknowledged it as one of his own greatest works; according to musical legend, the famous Allegretto movement (used to memorable effect in the finale of The King’s Speech) proved so popular the audience demanded it be encored immediately. But according to an 1840 biography of Beethoven by Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s contemporary Carl Maria von Weber was less convinced. “The extravagances of this genius have now reached the ne plus ultra,” he once commented. “Beethoven,” he continued, was clearly now “quite ripe for the madhouse.”

2. BEETHOVEN ON ROSSINI

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Weber might not have been a fan of Beethoven’s 7th, but Schindler claimed that Beethoven was no less restrained in his criticism of other composers. Gioachino Rossini, the Italian composer of The Barber of Seville and William Tell, “would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough,” he reportedly quipped.

3. BEETHOVEN ON HAYDN

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Of Josef Haydn, Beethoven simply stated, “I never learned anything from him.” This despite the fact that he was at one point Beethoven’s piano teacher.

4. BERLIOZ ON HANDEL

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Beethoven was nevertheless a fan of George Frideric Handel, whom he once labeled “the greatest composer that ever lived.” Haydn too was a fan (and reportedly burst into tears of joy after hearing Handel’s "Hallelujah Chorus" for the first time), as was Mozart, who once commented that Handel’s music “strikes like a thunderbolt.” The French composer Hector Berlioz, however, was less impressed. To him, Handel was nothing more than “a tub of pork and beer.”

5. MENDELSSOHN ON BERLIOZ

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If you think Berlioz was being a little harsh on Handel there, leave it to Felix Mendelssohn to redress the balance: In a letter in 1831, he wrote that Berlioz was “a regular freak, without a vestige of talent.”

6. SHOSTAKOVICH ON PUCCINI

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In the late 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the English composer Benjamin Britten became close friends with several of his Russian composers—among them Dmitri Shostakovich. During one of their many meetings in Moscow, the pair talked about the Italian composer of La Bohème and Madame Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini. “His operas are dreadful,” Britten admitted. “No, Ben, you’re wrong,” Shostakovich replied. “He wrote marvelous operas but dreadful music.”

7. TCHAIKOVSKY ON BRAHMS

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Just like Sir Thomas Beecham, the playwright George Bernard Shaw was known for his uncompromising opinions on practically everything and everyone—including the German composer Johannes Brahms. “There are some sacrifices which should not be demanded twice from any man,” Shaw once commented, “and one of them is listening to Brahms’ Requiem.” The Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was even more scathing, and considerably more blunt. Writing in his diary on October 9, 1886, Tchaikovsky wrote, “I have played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard!”

8. COPLAND ON RACHMANINOFF

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When Soviet Russia began to crack down on artistic creativity in the early- to mid-20th century, a number of Russia’s most famous composers and artists emigrated to the West. In response, a number of Western composers began to forge their own sound, and to reject the Russian influence coming their way—among them, the American composer Aaron Copland. “The prospect of having to sit through one of his extended symphonies or piano concertos,” he once commented, “tends quite frankly to depress me. All those notes ... and to what end?”

9. PROKOFIEV ON STRAVINSKY

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As if East vs. West zingers weren’t bad enough, Sergei Prokofiev memorably turned against his fellow Eastern European composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky when he said that his music sounded like “Bach on the wrong notes.”

10. STRAVINSKY ON VIVALDI

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Stravinsky wasn’t a fan of the Italian Baroque composer of The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi. According to Stravinsky, he was “greatly overrated” and—even worse—“a dull fellow.”

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

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Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

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12 Very Haunted Roads

Don't get caught on these roads at night.
Don't get caught on these roads at night.
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What could be scarier than driving down a dark road at night? Driving down one of these dark roads at night. If any of the below routes—compiled by Commercial Truck Trader—pop up on your GPS this spooky season, consider finding an alternate way to your destination.

1. Jeremy Swamp Road // Southbury, Connecticut

Jeremy Swamp Road and several other streets in southwestern Connecticut are said to be frequented by Melon Heads, creatures that, according to the New England Historical Society, live in wooded areas and “look like small humanoids with oversized heads” that “survive by eating small animals, stray cats and human flesh, usually the flesh of teenagers.” Some say the Melon Heads are the result of inbreeding, with others theorizing that they escaped from local hospitals or asylums.

2. Owaissa Street // Appleton, Wisconsin

Legend has it that every full moon, a tombstone in Owaissa Street’s Riverside Cemetery bleeds. The tombstone belongs to Kate Blood, who, according to some stories, was either a witch who killed her husband and children with an ax, or was a woman murdered by her husband. (Local historians, however, say Blood died of tuberculosis.) Visitors also report seeing a creepy hooded figure roaming the cemetery.

3. Prospector’s Road // Garden Valley, California

Driving along this hilly, three-mile stretch of road is not for the faint of heart: It’s supposedly haunted by the spirit of a tall, bearded prospector who was murdered after he drunkenly bragged about his claim. According to Weird California, those who run into the entity—who is supposedly responsible for many an accident along the road—will hear him whisper: “Get off my claim.”

4. Sandhill Road // Las Vegas, Nevada

The flood tunnels beneath Sandhill Road between Olive Avenue and Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas are said to be haunted by a dead couple. People have also reported hearing creepy, ghostly moans coming from the darkness and being chased by the specter of an old woman.

5. Bloody Bride Bridge // Steven’s Point, Wisconsin

Drivers on Highway 66 in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, might get a glimpse of the ghost of a bride who was supposedly killed on her wedding day in a car accident on the bridge. Legend has it that if those drivers park on the bridge at midnight and look in their rearview mirrors, they’ll see the bride, in her bloody wedding dress, sitting in the backseat.

6. Boy Scout Lane // Steven’s Point, Wisconsin

Also located in Steven’s Point, the isolated Boy Scout Lane is supposedly where a group of Boy Scouts died, although no one quite seems to know why or how—some say they were killed while camping when their fire raged out of control; others say it was a bus accident; and some say they simply disappeared. Whatever the reason, visitors to the area now say they can hear footsteps and calls for help coming from the woods.

7. Route 66 // Villa Ridge, Missouri

Located on Route 66, the abandoned Tri-County Truck-Stop is a hotbed of ghostly activity. Before the restaurant shut down, employees reported hearing strange noises, seeing apparitions, and watching as coffee pots were thrown across the room by invisible forces.

8. Stagecoach Road // Marshall, Texas

On this red dirt road—which once served as a route for stagecoaches traveling to the town from Shreveport, Louisiana—paranormal investigators have snapped photos of ghosts and had the batteries of the equipment they were using to investigate drain inexplicably. Others who have driven down the road and turned off their cars said they felt a presence stepping on the bumper; when they went home, they discovered tiny handprints in the red dust on the back of the car. The road is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a Voodoo priestess.

9. Route 666 // Douglas, Arizona

The road formerly known as Route 666 may now be part of Route 491 [PDF], but some still call it The Devil’s Highway. Drivers traveling on this section of highway have recounted being pursued by a pack of terrifying dogs or a phantom semi-truck, among other strange and scary encounters.

10. Goatman's Bridge // Denton, Texas

Old Alton Bridge is an iron-truss structure built in 1884 that got its unsettling moniker from local legends. Fifty years after the bridge was built, a successful Black goat farmer named Oscar Washburn—who went by the nickname “Goatman”—put a sign on the bridge that read “This Way to the Goatman.” The sign incensed the Ku Klux Klan, who hanged Washburn on the bridge. But according to Legends of America, “when they looked over to make sure he was dead, they could see only the rope. Washburn was gone and was never seen again.” Some report seeing a man herding goats across the bridge, which was decommissioned around 2001, while others say they’ve seen a half-man, half-goat creature there.

11. Route 375 // Rachel, Nevada

Entertaining the idea of a close encounter? Drivers on this road—which runs near the Nevada Test and Training Range, home of Area 51—have reported hundreds of strange, potentially alien sightings from Alamo to Tonopah, leading to the route’s nickname: “The Extraterrestrial Highway.”

12. Ortega Ridge Road // Montecito, California

This road is haunted by Las Ters Hermanas, or The Three Sisters—three nuns who, it’s said, were murdered more than a century ago. They can be seen standing on the side of the road, arms crossed, their eyes bright blue and their faces glowing.