One composer who cannot be decolonised

One composer who cannot be decolonised

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

September 17, 2021

A response from Professor Robert Eshbach to the gathering storm of academic wokeism:

Who among the debunkers and ‘decolonisers’ of 19th-century music would dare to try to hold their own in a conversation with Franz Liszt—to accuse him to his face of a narrow, monolithic viewpoint? A man who spent his childhood in multi-ethnic Hungary, among Magyars and magnates, Turks, Slavs, Gypsies, Catholics and Jews—who traveled from St. Petersburg to Constantinople, from Paris and London to Weimar and Rome? The languages he spoke, the books he read (and wrote), his knowledge of art, his comprehensive understanding of music, historical and contemporary, and his unparalleled ability to perform it. The people he met, from tsars and sultans and kings to peasants and beggars—the writers, the painters, the philosophers, composers and virtuosi, the politicians and generals and priests in whose circles he shone… A charismatic “rockstar” named after St. Francis, with a spiritual life that led him to take the minor orders of the Catholic Church… A transformative genius who began his life on the Esterházy sheep farms and grew up to live with a princess—who, even in old age, continued to travel 4,000 miles a year by coach and train and steamship. A world-renowned teacher and a generous philanthropist. A critic of musical conservatism and a champion of Wagner. A pathbreaking futurist composer who, as a national hero also wrote Hungarian music in traditional forms. An artist of immense influence on those who studied with him, those who quarreled with him, and those who followed him.

Oh, no… he knew nothing about humanity—and he has nothing to teach us.



  • Peter says:

    “De-colonizers” of classical music are the same kind of people who burned Jewish litterature in the 30s.

    Pure human garbage.

    • John Edwards says:

      “Pure human garbage”. Wow, you really are the voice of humanity

    • nimitta says:

      Peter: “Pure human garbage.”

      Hmmm. It sounds as if you’d be all too eager to burn the decolonizers’ literature, Peter. What ‘kind of people’ does your comment make you?

      • Peter says:

        Totally wrong. I’m very much in favour of a total free exchange of ideas. However, I take the right to call people who want do disqualify others on the basis of skin color racists, or more precice: Pure human garbage. But they should be able to express their mind like anybody else, I have no problem with that.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      No, they are not. As much as I despise this wokeness, there is a non-surmountable gap between this and people who built concentration camps and gas chambers. Get a grip. Bad musicology is different from the holocaust.

      • Peter says:

        To burn books doesn’t make you a builder of gas chambers, but it still makes you a member of the nazi family.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          The people who burned books in the 1930s WERE Nazis; they were the same people who built the gas chambers. And woke musicologists are not Nazis. Besides, I have not seen them burn books. Details matter in these historically fraught cases…

          • Peter says:

            Feel free to spin the point that decolonizers don’t physically burn books of people of the wrong race, just to erase them from the common memory – if you believe that is of any difference.

      • Good says:

        But ideology is the same

  • Gustavo says:

    To be read with “Hunnenschlacht” playing in the background.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Listz is the epitome of the European, humanist, cosmopolitan artist.

    It may also be remembered that late in life, Liszt predicted Schoenberg’s idea of pan-tonality, or atonality. There is a memoir of one of his students where L explained that eventually, the combination of any note of the chromatic scale would become acceptable and any distinction between them flattened. The interesting thing about this utterance is that L thought this were a disaster.

    When he was writing his latest piano pieces in the building in Venice which was hired by Wagner, who lived downstairs, the late music in which he experimented with non-tonal combinations, Wagner commented to his wife – Listz’s daughter – when the sounds floated down the staircase: ‘Your father is going senile!’

    • Che? says:

      John – I agree, Liszt epitomises the european cosmopolitan artist. It’s just a shame his music is so bad. I loved him for his sound effects as a teenager, especially the anées de pèlerinage, and the late sonata. But it seems like pantomine compared to Bach, or even his own contemporaries, Schumann and Chopin. I’d say he, and the subsequent european musical tradition, was overdetermined by the example of Beethoven, the extreme indivdualist – those who came in ludwig’s wake weren’t capable of his individuality, but strove to emulate its effects, and inadvertently became musical parodies of themselves. This seems to reach a comic self awareness in Richard Strauss, although ambiguous. Wagner was the zenith of this failure, and of course great failures can be valuable. But poor Liszt, in retrospect he seems like a hyper-intellectual but spiritually-sentimental, affected, and very often tasteless (just consider his transcriptions of schubert and opera) kind of higher liberace. I think his most interesting piece is nuages gris, he seems to have sensed in this mood the aesthetic extent of his contribution to music, along with that distinctly drab desolation apropos his christian persuasion. I wonder if you disagree?

      • John Borstlap says:

        I don’t know where to begin….

        But, in a very reduced, lame attempt:

        The B-Minor sonata is a masterpiece. As is the 2nd piano concerto, in spite of its rather affected mood at places. Many of the pf pieces are brilliant, also in musical terms (like the Feux Follets etude).

        The symphonic poem Orpheus, the shortest of the collection, is a masterpiece of substance and nostalgic understatement.

        Wagner’s oeuvre overwhelmingly defined music after Beethoven, in spite of the ‘langueurs’ in his operas. He was the inventor and developer of the concept of the continuum, on which all music since his death rests (even mine). And his influence in literature was as strong.

        I will stop here, my PA is tut-tutting in the background – friday afternoon mood.

        • Che? says:

          I forgot about the 2nd piano concerto, an old favourite, thanks for reminding me. I may just be allergic to Liszt, but …

        • Che? says:

          Just listened to the 2nd concerto, and played through some of most luxurious moments on the piano, delightful; unfortunatley it has only reconfirmed my bias – Liszt is Liberace qua Beethoven histrionics raised to the nth degree, glamorous, showy, operatic music. Mendellsohn could be sentimental too, but he seems aware of it, is there simply a lack of irony in Liszt?

        • Che? says:

          Btw, don’t you think the 1st concerto is considerably better? The quasi adagio, 2nd mov. is something. (Although still struggling here & there like an opera born into the body of a concerto)

          • John Borstlap says:

            I think the structure of the 1st concerto is particularly interesting, how the movements are combined to a whole, quasi-improvised. That is not a flaw in formation but an adventurous exploration which was only taken-up by Debussy later in the century, who tried to have his music sound as if improvised on the spot.

          • Che? says:

            Thank you for the insight, will have to pay more attention to the structure of the concerto. I imagine Debussy was one of the most tasteful composers, more consistently than Beethoven etc. but precisely that stylistic commitment to a laissez-faire improvised affect, to me at least, relegates his works, likes Liszt’s, to the realm of occasional music. It is like perfume, a waft is enough, not the fresh air of say Mozart or of God, sorry, I mean Bach.

          • John Borstlap says:

            The great care and technique that goes into writing music that sounds as if improvised, is meant to convey the freshness and spontaneity of a sketch, which with the master painters of the past is often more direct and expressive than the finished canvas. Such works (like Liszt’s and Debussy’s) are not ‘less’ than the thoroughly-structured works by Bach & Beethoven etc., but they try to avoid the formalism and thus, klischée-ridden predictability of classicism in the hands of minor talents. Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, or Debussy’s La Mer (‘Esquisse Symphonique’), are brilliantly structured master pieces with an underlying complexity that does not draw attention to itself – not ‘occasional music’ but in contrary, the highest form of musical invention. That is why they always sound so fresh with every re-hearing.

          • Laura says:

            Thank you for your informed comments about Liszt and other composers. It is much appreciated.

    • Liszt’s late experiments with atonality, or expanding tonality, are beautiful and visionary works. Fascinating to listen to. Some of the best atonal and pan-tonal music ever written

      • John Borstlap says:

        True! But they are entirely tonal, the notes do relate to each other. There is much misunderstanding about the term ‘atonal’.

        • And much misunderstanding about atonal, such as your implication that notes don’t “relate” to each other. But of course, this is apostasy, a deviation from the One-And-Only-Truth and so beyond discussion.

          • John Borstlap says:

            If you knew what I’ve to suffer here! Every letter I write has to be corrected thrice because of speling mistakes, as if there’s only one truth. No space for interpretation.


      • Laura says:

        Thank you, William.

    • clare37 says:

      Hi John,

      Off topic.

      I don’t agree with Roger Scruton on much, but I’m tickled by his view of Janáček as I am Milan Kundera’s. I mean a friend was doing his dissertation decades ago and his professors were asking why he was wasting time on this little known composer, so it was a thrill to have people making strong statements about his music.

      Do you mostly agree or disagree with his Scruton here?


      It is still questionable whether the avant-garde can obtain a real audience; too often those present in the concert hall seem like a pseudo-audience, if not an audience of pseuds. I want a music which respects the devices that Janáček made such vivid use of:

      —Repetition of small motifs

      —Dance rhythms

      —Diatonic phrases and tonal harmonies

      —Speech and folkloric melodies

      These are the perennial symbols of a shared and settled form of life, and an available prophylactic against solipsism. Music is not a ‘sound effect’, but an expression of life, and melody is the principal sign of this. One reason for returning to the old folk culture is that it shows the basic musical devices in their pure and uncorrupted form, before becoming banal through the loss of their real-life context. It was this pure material that was reworked by Janáček and which set limits to his style without cramping it. He wrote in such a way that, even in the midst of the most angular phrases and dissonant harmony, he could regain at a step the lilt of a folk melody and the clarity of a tonal chord. Composers today need to rediscover the art of creating melodies, for these are the true musical protagonists, the actors on the stage of music… Again, Janáček sets an irreproachable example. His melodies, taken from the rhythm of human speech, and at the same time imbued with a tradition of song and dance, were entirely unsentimental — images of sincere human utterance, as though compelled from the heart rather than put together from a repertoire of formulae.

      • Che? says:

        Janáček is a miracle.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Scruton is entirely right here.

        I think he does not go far enough.

        Composers today don’t need folklore to recapture the essence of pure musical life, they simply have to stop being rational in the wrong territory. Music is something emotional, intuitive, instinctive, and including its own logic. Rationality is merely a means of putting a musical vision on paper. Janacek understood this perfectly well and hence the enduring quality of his music.

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    The simple fact that he was European is enough for those who would “cancel” him.

  • A nice rant, but one composer is too limited as an example to fully address the issues of 19th century nationalism. It also doesn’t address the reception of 19th century music. The Nazis use of Liszt’s Les Preludes is just one of countless striking examples.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s a scandal! I always disliked Les Preludes and now I know why that is.


      • Ah, Sally, but there was nothing like a glorious Wehrmachtbericht and the noble defense of Western culture from Bolshevist atonalists, so be sure to have John straighten you out.


        • John Borstlap says:

          Dear William, take a breath and begin to THINK for once.

          What if a thoroughly evil, sadistic criminal correctly explains the pythagorean theorem? Does this mean that the theorem must be evil itself to be able to be explained by a criminal?

          The nazis appropriated classical music to steal respectabiliy. Accepting this intellectual crime as truth is simply perpetuating it.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      And a musician who liked and admired Liszt tremendously felt he had to break off the friendship because Liszt said and did nothing to refute, disown, or dissent from Richard Wagner’s famous essay about Jews in music. That musician was Joseph Joachim — Liszt’s concertmaster, fellow Hungarian, and a musician who had a sound basis for feeling that many of the essay’s most pointed attacks were aimed at him!

      • Robert Eshbach says:

        David K. Nelson: with respect, I have spent a great deal of time researching and thinking about precisely this point, and the historical evidence strongly contradicts the view you state. Of course, as David Brooks points out in today’s New York Times, none of us really knows why we do what we do. But the record will not bear you out.

        Joachim read Wagner’s “Judenthum” article when it first appeared, and he signed a petition to have Franz Brendel fired from the Leipzig Conservatory for publishing it. We have it on Wagner’s own say-so that Joachim knew Wagner was the author, and for that reason behaved defensively toward him when the two met in 1853. Nevertheless, after their meeting Joachim wrote to Arnold Wehner, “You, too, would have rejoiced in Richard (a true Lion Heart!)… Wagner is one of those rare people who act as they do because the truth within them… will not permit them to do otherwise. …his every movement and every tone of his voice are like heralds proclaiming the completeness and nobility of his soul.” To another friend, he wrote “you will see that I am changed…”.

        No matter what he thought of Wagner personally, Joachim admired Wagner’s music (later in his life he was also able to separate his injured feelings from his love for Brahms’s music). He signed on as Liszt’s concertmaster after having heard, and been bowled over by, the premiere of Lohengrin under Liszt’s direction in Weimar in 1850. Though he later came to a more realistic understanding of Wagner’s character, Joachim nevertheless continued to admire much of Wagner’s music. He conducted it at various times in his life, and his daughter sang at Bayreuth. At the time of his meeting with Wagner, Joachim traveled to Switzerland together with Liszt—nearly a year after he had resigned from his post as Liszt’s concertmaster and taken up residence in Hanover. While in Basel, he traded the intimate “du” with Wagner, and offered to play concertmaster when the Ring was premiered. If those were his feelings toward Wagner, in full cognizance of Wagner’s “Judenthum” essay, and after having resigned his Weimar post, would he break off his friendship with Liszt “because Liszt said and did nothing to refute, disown, or dissent from Wagner’s words?”

        An article that I have just written will show that there was an extraordinary level of mutual respect between Liszt and Joachim during Joachim’s entire stay in Weimar and for some years thereafter. Their rift, which occurred in 1857, had almost entirely to do with Joachim’s increasing friendship with the Schumanns, Brahms, Bettina von Arnim, and Bettina’s daughter Gisela, with whom Joachim was obsessively in love. Liszt was well aware that Joachim’s new friends, a kind of anti-Liszt coterie (Schumann called Liszt “Iscariot” and spoke of “the enemy camp”), were the cause of their estrangement—and said so. But love is a strong emotion.

        The Liszt-Joachim split was at the epicenter of what Alan Walker has dubbed “The War of the Romantics”—a compelling example, if any were necessary, of why 19th-century European music should not be considered in any way monolithic, or expressing only one political or aesthetic viewpoint. On the contrary, nineteenth-century European music was an exemplary case of what Hobbes called the “bellum omnium contra omnes”—“the war of all against all.”

        One thing we learn from history is that people don’t always think as we would expect them to, or as we might. Another is that people are often self-contradictory in their words and behavior. Liszt (or more probably Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein) wrote things in his book on the Gypsies and Their Music in Hungary that shocked even Wagner for their virulent anti-Semitism. And yet, Edmund Singer (another of Liszt’s Jewish concertmasters) wrote that Liszt was very far from an anti-Semite. Make of that what you will. He certainly worked hard and selflessly to promote his Jewish colleagues — Joachim first among them. Joachim understood what Liszt had done for him, and for that he was unfailingly grateful.

      • John Borstlap says:

        In that article, Wagner attacked the people who blocked his way in Paris where he had suffered terrible deprivation and humiliation, the competition, and the first wave of industrialism and capitalism, so a mix of personal revenge, envie and cultural critique. In all three directions, his target group happened to consist of many people of Jewish descent, that is why racism got entangled in personal and cultural frustration.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        Liszt was cordial and conciliatory to a fault — literally, since it was a serious fault not to object to Wagner’s essay, as well as to permit Caroline Sayn-Wittgenstein to add the anti-Semitic text to the second edition of Liszt’s “Des Bohemiens et de leur musique en Hongrie.”

        That said, in Hungary he supported the Jews in the exercise of their full civil rights granted by Franz Joseph in 1867 (if I recall the date correctly), and he was a very close friend of Mor Wahrmann, the first Jewish city councilor of Budapest, staying at his home (as a historian who is Wahrmann’s nth-great-grandson was pleased to tell me). Staying at the Wahrmann house was a very public demonstrative act. And many of his piano students, as well as other musicians he supported actively, were Jewish.

        That’s by no means to excuse his responsibility for the rift with Joachim but merely to set in in some context.

        • Robert Eshbach says:

          I don’t think Liszt bore any responsibility for his rift with Joachim. On the contrary. Even as Schumann lay dying, Liszt wrote to Joachim: “These few words should recall to you my true, heartfelt, and deeply respectful friendship, dearest Joachim. If others of your close friends should seek to call this friendship into question, then let their efforts be in vain—let us remain faithful and true, as befits a pair of fellows like us.” The friends were the Schumanns, Brahms, and Bettina and Gisela von Arnim. Schumann was, of course, mentally ill, and threatened by Liszt’s success. Joachim and Brahms felt obliged to him, and to Clara, whom they supported in her widowhood, and Joachim was also in love with Gisela von Arnim, whose mother Bettina had had a falling-out with Liszt. The rift was all on Joachim’s side.

  • Couperin says:

    You know all of this fear-mongering about woke-ism is going to backfire, right? Nobody is trying to cancel Liszt, but they might if paranoid bs like this keeps getting published. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Cut it out.

  • MR says:

    While listening to the finalized realization of my composition, Carnelian Compass, for the first time, replete with textures woven from jhaptal, dadra, rupak and kaharwa chand, I imagined Franz Liszt visiting nineteenth-century India, meeting some of the court musicians, and improvising on ragas with them, playing a specially tuned harpsichord in the manner of a harmonium. If you read about his life and personality, it all sounds plausible if he had actually traveled there. Subsequently, I learned that Liszt did travel to Istanbul, then Constantinople, to perform for the Ottoman sultanate, but unfortunately there is no apparent record of his presumed exposure to their traditional music. Not being fluent in the music of Liszt, I’m unable to comment on whether such an influence exists in one or more of his compositions.

    • AlbericM says:

      Liszt spent five weeks in Istanbul in 1847, being hosted by Donizetti’s brother Giuseppe, who was conductor of the Imperial orchestra. The Sultan was delighted by Liszt, as he was passionate about Western music, especially opera.

  • Von Carry-on says:

    Liszt’s music must be weighed on its own merits, not compared to other composers. One facet of his genius that nobody mentioned here is his development of keyboard textures – the variety of which are as endless as they are ingenious. All composers who followed him are in his debt! Liszt’s impact on the music world is incalculable, and it takes a pathetically small mind to dismiss his music as “bad”.

  • A Tian says:

    I truly admire & worship Franz Liszt and his music. I am woke about him. All modern whingers are mostly hangers on and seldom use their intellect, if there is any.

  • SMH says:

    “Gypsies” is no longer an acceptable term. Roma/Romani is now preferred.

    • John Borstlap says:

      In the near future, even ‘Roma/Romani’ will be taboo’d and replaced by ‘unknown diverse minority without label or fixed abode’.

    • Robert Eshbach says:

      Those in Hungary, whom science classifies as Vlach Gypsies call themselves Rom or Roma, those who are classified as Hungarian Gypsies prefer the term “musicians”, while those called Romanian Gypsies prefer to call
      themselves Boyash. Other names include Bohemiens, Zigeuner, Cygani, etc.
      It was a commonplace occurrence at the end of the eighties that intellectuals feeling solidarity with the Gypsies started to use the term Roma to coin all Gypsy people in general, as they felt the word “Gypsy” and the related associations were pejorative. In several cases, however, the musicians protested against being called Roma, claiming that they were not Roma but musician Gypsies. Nevertheless the majority of Gypsy politicians with Hungarian as their mother tongue often – and by today generally – use the term Roma in the names of the political and social organisations of Gypsy people; hence such names as the Roma Parliament, the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, the Roma Press Centre and Roma Veritas. In other cases the name of the organisation is entirely in the Gypsy language, e.g.: Phralipe, Amaro Drom, Lungo Drom, Romano Kher. All this shows that on the level of “Gypsy politics” there is a demand for cultural and social integration between the various groups, though this does not mean that that demand has also been recognised within popular culture and on the level of everyday life.

  • anon says:

    No need to deconstruct Liszt, his music does it all by itself.

    Hunnenschlacht? Hunnenschlecht.

  • Leif Laudamus says:

    Interesting that the ethnicities cited as evidence of Liszt’s multiculturalism are all white.

    • Robert Eshbach says:

      Interesting, how? Excuse me, but why bring color into this? Liszt’s experience was multi-ethnic enough. Should his life have been different? As Golda Meir used to say, “If my Grandmother had wheels, she’d be a carriage.”

      Hungary, in Liszt’s day, was a rather distant outpost of European culture — a feudal sheep-herding society as much attuned to the East as to the West, and still very much under the influence of the Ottoman Turks (who, speaking of colonization, had in earlier centuries reached the gates of Vienna, for which we have Viennese coffee and pastries, Haydn’s “Military” Symphony and Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio to thank). There were so many ethnicities in 19th-century Hungary that their “lingua Franca” was Latin.

      Liszt was fascinated by Turkish culture. When he settled in Weimar in 1847 and gave up what he called his “travelling-circus life” — his years of touring — the penultimate stop on his final tour was a place that had been on his touring bucket list for some time — Constantinople, the present-day Istanbul. Liszt stayed in Constantinople for some three weeks, the guest of Sultan Abdul-Megid’s music master, Giuseppe Donizetti (the “wrong Donizetti” as Brahmsians might call him—the elder brother of the famous opera composer Gaetano). Donizetti had Erard send a piano for Liszt to play on.

      Among Liszt’s many performances were two for Abdul-Megid, who smoked great billows on his hookah while Liszt rhapsodized. While there, Liszt wrote and performed a set of variations on a military march that Donizetti had written for the Sultan—the Turkish equivalent, I suppose, of “God Save the King.” The Sultan’s musical tastes ran strongly toward Italian opera, but he also promoted band music as part of his Westernizing reforms. One part of Donizetti’s responsibilities was therefore to recruit and train bands of young Turks, many of them little Moors, who would play his Classical music, but also Janissary music and Western-style marches.

      Later, in Weimar, Liszt and his disciples formed an anti-philistine society — the “Society of Murls” — “Murl” being a southern German/Austrian diminutive for “Moors”: i.e. Mohr/ Hochdeutsch diminutive: “Mohrchen”/ Southern dialect diminutive: “Murl” (like Johannes/Hänschen/Hänsel or Margarete/Gretchen/Gretel). Liszt and his “Murls” wore Turkish fezzes, smoked water pipes, and gave themselves Turkish noms de guerre: Liszt was the “Padischah;” Joseph Joachim was “Murl Ali Pascha.” It was all in fun — and nowadays would rightly be considered totally insensitive, or really racist. But if when we study history we can get intellectually beyond those notions and leave our judgmental minds at the door, we might be fascinated by the intermingling of East and West — by the *mutual* fascination that people had with one another’s exotic cultures, and by the rapt curiosity that always makes borders the richest sources of creativity and change. (Think, for example, of how the Troubadours brought an Eastern concept of love — a Persian influence (think Hafez) — to the rigid Northern Catholic society that, being threatened, deemed them heretics and exterminated them in the Albigensian Crusade. When we “fall in love” — a mortal sin to Medieval Catholics, but apotheosized in Tristan und Isolde — we owe that concept to the multicultural engagement of Western musicians, and, yes, also to the colonizing conquest of the Crusaders who opened the path to the Holy Land and brought Christian and Muslim cultures into intimate proximity.) Western Romantic love — finding one’s soulmate — would not exist, but for “colonization” and the perfection of Troubadour song.

      I am sure that Abdul-Megid didn’t have a subtle understanding of Western culture any more than Liszt had a subtle understanding of Turks and Moors… but where does that understanding begin? It begins where cultures that have developed and matured in isolation intersect. More specifically, it begins with people like Liszt, who have the experience, courage and skill to distill their extraordinary experiences and perceptions into art, and who carry that art to others. It’s not truth, mind you, and it doesn’t matter if you “like” it — it’s one person’s conviction, which invites us out of ourselves — which at its best shows us something beautiful and new, and leads us through fresh encounters to fresh understandings. Remember, if you feel jaded about this, how in previous times ordinary people by the thousands hungered for the music that many now dismiss. How their lives on the sheep farms and in the factories, and, yes, even in their palaces, were enriched and made bearable by evocations that led them into what to them must have seemed a magical world.

      Even “Hunnenschlacht/schlecht.” That, too, was an interpretation of life and history, however much you may deplore it.

      Liszt was a man of his time and place—fine. But he was a genius of enormous influence, fascinated by everything he encountered — catholic (small “c”) in his tastes and influences, as were most of our great creators. (Debussy loved the Gamelan. Many 20th-century “Classical” composers loved Jazz, and many wonderful Jazz musicians of my acquaintance know their Bartók better than most Classical violinists do). We don’t teach only the history that we “like” or agree with. The people who don’t engage with Liszt because they don’t “like” his music miss the whole point of cultural activity. They narrow their own understanding. It is they who are pigeon-holing, limiting, impoverishing the great edifice of Western culture which engages powerfully with the cultures of other peoples, times, and places. Not the people who created it. Not the people who have set a banquet before us and invited us to feast.

  • Ainslie says:

    As were almost literally all Europeans of his day.
    But certainly he should have known better, right?

    Denigrating Liszt for not embracing Asian, African, Aboriginal,
    inuits, Native Meso-Americans [fill in the black here to your heart’s content] is like criticizing him for not embracing quarter tone music.

  • Phil Fried says:

    Funny, was it twenty years ago (30?) when post-structuralism was all the rage in musicology? Not just the rage but a necessity? Didn’t some folks complain that musical content was abandoned and interpretation privileged? Hmm. It seems that decolonization is here, and so it goes. I don’t see a problem. What is this nostalgia for a world we never knew? Why imbue it with perfection when its built on slavery and serfdom?
    One thing though, racism is too important to be just this year’s flavor.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Lol way to invent a guy to get mad about. No argument, nothing fruitful in this entire “article” just a snowflake crying about “uwu but the left is meeeeean” lol grow up

  • Jeremy Cullen says:

    This argument makes zero sense. ‘Liszt was a liberal, progressive, cosmopolitan composer therefore decolonisation is bad.’