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Famous Feuds In Classical Music

Ether Game explores the times when musicians were at each others' throats! En garde!


Photo: PeterDargatz (Pixabay)

Ether Game looks at some composers who've butted heads!

We’re putting up our dukes this week, exploring some of the best feuds in classical music! Here’s just a taste of some of our favorite famous feuds:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart seemed to have a rivalry with Antonio Salieri, but it was mostly sensationalized by playwright Alexander Pushkin and the film Amadeus. There’s no real evidence they had any undue animosity towards one another.
  • Composer Claudio Monteverdi did have a rivalry with music theorist Giovanni Artusi. The latter criticized the former’s “illegal” use of dissonances in his Fifth Book of Madrigals. Monteverdi defended his work, by saying to was part of a “second practice” of composing counterpoint!
  • Opera stars are known to feud too! Sopranos Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi famously feuded, although their “feud” was mostly trumped up by the press.
  • The press also played a big role in creating the “War of the Romantics,” between conservative composers like Johannes Brahms and progressive composers like Franz Liszt. Although, Liszt and his ilk did experiment with new forms like the symphonic poem, whereas Brahms favored more traditional forms.
  • Progressive vs. Conservative musical debates date back to the music of the French Court in the 17th century, between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau. The composers were mostly civil, but their supporters formed opposing camps called “lullistes” and “ramists”!
  • Conductors were also known to feud! Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan, both conductors of the Berlin Philharmonic formed a rivalry. But this rivalry was instigated mostly by Hitler and the Third Reich, who opposed Furtwängler’s politics!
  • Another rivalry formed in the 17th-century French court, not between the composers, but between the viol players! Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray were musical rivals with vastly different styles: Marias played like an angel, while Forqueray played like the devil, according to contemporary accounts
  • And in pop music… Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney mocked a rivalry in Jackson’s song “The Girl Is Mine” from the album Thriller. It turned into a real rivalry years later which Jackson bought the publishing rights to McCartney’s songs with the Beatles!

See the full playlist below:

And don’t forget to check out our Feuding Podcast for another musical rivalry!

Music Heard On This Episode


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