Possibly the toughest music inquisition presently available

Possibly the toughest music inquisition presently available


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2016

Pit your brains against Jeremy Paxman’s University Challenge questions.

Click here to start.



  • David Osborne says:


  • John Borstlap says:

    I did not understand the first question and had to give up.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Pitifully easy. Try the music questions on Only Connect instead.

  • Mikey says:

    I’m sorry, this isn’t “the toughest”… it’s just not related to anything people with degrees in music would know.
    My sister-in-law, a lab technician for a mining company, could get all of these right.
    I have a Master’s degree in music and had NO idea who these people were (with a few minor exceptions).
    The questions don’t show any knowledge of music, only of pop music trivia.

    Oh, and I got 6/10

    • David Osborne says:

      “I have a Master’s degree in music and had NO idea who these people were”
      Thanks Mikey. You just pretty much summed up musical academicism.

      • Mikey says:

        I’m about the LAST person you could call an “academic”… I am quite far outside the ivory tower brigade. I have trouble getting my stuff performed because it’s considered “too populist”.

        And I happen to be a huge fan of Sondheim. I know who Katy Perry is, and have a bunch of ABBA and Cher CDs in the car.

        So please, tell me about the state of academicism again?

        I know who Coltraine is, and The Smiths… I just don’t know, nor care, about the mundane details of which album came out the year they were having a fight with their cross-dressing manager.

        So thanks for demonstrating that non-classical people can be JUST as snobbish and pretentious as some of the classical people.

        • David Osborne says:

          Yes sorry, wrong of me but I did get that from your comment. But ‘non classical people’, moi? (Pretentious maybe)… You see how it works? It’s all good though, SD commenting is for me at least just a kind of therapeutic thinking out loud and if it all goes wrong, just blame Norman. Or Borstlap…

          • Mikey says:

            the real problem with this quiz is the nature of its questions, rather than the topic.

            if we had a purely classically-oriented quiz that asked questions like “what was the famous piano concerto Mozart wrote the same year his youngest child got a D- in penmanship?”
            Or “Which famous Viennese Ear Trumpet manufacturer had a heart attack 12 years after supplying Beethoven with a sample of his product?”

            these aren’t in any way shape or form a demonstration of knowledge of music. they demonstrate only a knowledge of pointless trivia.

            now, if the questions on the “most difficult music quiz” had been along the lines of “which of these musical groups was heavily influenced by The Smith’s approach to harmony?”, or “Which musical element particularly marked the music of Theolonius Monk?” then I’d say yes, that is at least a quiz about musical knowledge, albeit not the type of knowledge I acquired during my studies. (ok, so I’d probably know the answers to those questions, especially if they were multiple-choice)

        • David Osborne says:

          Oh and please don’t tell me you’re another one who thinks I’m that guy.

  • Patrick says:

    Well, for starters, who is Jeremy Paxman?

  • Bruce says:

    Haha. 6/10. I knew 2 of them (Einstein’s instrument and the composer not guided by Salieri), had reasonable guesses on a couple of others (the Mississippi River question and the failed assassination attempt) (didn’t check to see if I got those right), and picked whatever was the middle choice for the others.

    I guess the point is that, if you know which composer was not mentored by Salieri, you’d have to have a similar level of erudition across several other genres of music in order to ace this test. That’s fine.

  • Una says:

    3/10 – not bad for a professional classical musician with degrees in music but who just doesn’t have this sort of knowledge or musical experience! Those three were guess work apart from Salieri!! Never heard of most of the others – generational gap no doubt, who would class me as ignorant …

  • William Safford says:

    5/10. It revealed some gaps in my knowledge about Brit-pop in particular.

  • Don Fatale says:

    8/10, and very happy with that, given that there was only one classical question.
    One was a total guess, a couple of workouts, and alas one wrong where I misread the question.
    I’m sure many here sit up when the music round starts on UC and OC.