Death of a US Schoenberg promoter

Death of a US Schoenberg promoter


norman lebrecht

October 04, 2020

The French composer, conductor and pianist Jacques-Louis Monod has died in Toulouse at the age of 93.

In 1950s New York he was one of the leading performers of the music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern.


  • John Borstlap says:

    Interesting man.

    But it is not true that the best works of all great composers are written in the last third of their life. Mozart was already quite capable in his 2nd third, Bach already halfway his 1st third when he was in his twenties, Mendelssohn wrote his best works early in life. Chopin was on full steam at the beginning of his 2nd third. And then, given the irregular life spans of composers, there is no rule about experience. Ravel wrote his superb string quartet when still a student at the Paris conservatoire, and his stunning Sheherazade cycle shortly after. In his last third he battled with dryness and lack of inspiration, being depressed after WW I.

    And what about Schoenberg himself? His best works are the music he wrote before he got his silly idea of 12-tone composition, i.e. shortly after WW I. The rest is silence, in terms of music. And this silence has been promoted with loud noise ever since.

    Monod has spent his life on promoting serialism, and the Schoenbergian ethos, fuelling the flames of progress in the US, France and the UK.

    This is some of his own music:

    If it gives you stomach pains, that means that you fully understand the music, and it also means that it is good for you, like the benches in the church on sunday during an edifyingly long sermon. This stems from the idea that both God and true music are incompatible with the flesh. I don’t think this is true.

    All this promotion, all this teaching and spreading of the evangelical message – has it led to the happy inclusion of modernist masterpieces in concert life, with audiences being elevated from their sorry state to a spiritual uplifting of mind and heart? Concert life is full of craziness and pitfalls so this is not a judgement. But the sound of desert sand between the teeth in such Schoenbergian exercises, both musical and ideological, has something to do with the fact that the happy message never came across.

  • Dan P. says:

    Jacques Monod was an extraordinary musician who contributed in just about every aspect of the art. His contribution to music in New York as a conductor, professor, editor, and promoter of music was immense.

  • So very sorry to hear. He was one of our professors at The Juilliard School. He was part of a very prominent family and taught many people along his journey. Rest well, professor, and thank you.

    • Nathaniel Rosen says:

      So many lovely people promoted the music of the Second Viennese School, such as Felix Galimir and Professor Monod. Pity.

  • I was very sad to hear this. As I wrote on my FB page, “[He was] not only a composer of wonderful, complex music, Maestro Monod was my main conducting teacher and someone whose voice I still hear in my head every time I stand in front of an ensemble. I owe him so much and I treasure my years working with him in his tiny attic office in the Columbia U. music building.” I am very grateful he saw something in me and took me on as a conducting student – he gave a technique and a way of understanding music. This video is wonderful. It brings back memories of his staggering intellect and his wry sense of humor. RIP Maître.

  • Clarrieu says:

    How strange that I (as, I suppose, many other french musicians) hear this name for the first time. And yet I live in the town where he died…

  • His ex wife singer Bethany Beardslee contributed as much as Monod did, perhaps more, to 20th century music. My exposure to this music was significantly increased at the many recitals she presented of contemporary music, not least the music of Milton Babbitt, who taught at Princeton (where Bethany’s second husband Godfrey Wynham was studying). Princeton was the global academic center for contemporary music (along with the Columbia/Princeton electronic music center) and attracted composers from abroad during the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Mitch says:

    Prof. Monod flunked 99% of his ear training students at Columbia in the early 70s without a hint of sympathy or regret. The department had to intervene and re-test everyone and suddenly I did well, but not without challenging the revered professor as to why he thought intimidation a legitimate teaching method. Later I learned he was one of the heroes of unlistenable music. So that’s where his humanity came from, I guess.