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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Dr David Wright

Dr Wright has a website posting articles on classical composers as well as classical performers. I have found it quite fascinating reading because he brings to light a lot of unsavoury aspects of various composer's lives. For instance, Sir Edward Elgar gets a very bad press. Now, I happen to like a bit of Elgar- mostly the symphonies and Alassio (In The South) but find the Enigma Variations a bit tedious and have never yet got through the symphonic poem 'Falstaff'. As for 'Gerontius' I have tried many times to like it but have now (after reading David Wright's comments) feel justified in giving up on it.

The composer who gets the worst press of all is Benjamin Britten - the most odious man he had ever met.  Now that one had me hopping from one foot to the other. There's a lot of Britten's music I like but Dr Wright's comments tend to make me see his output in a rather different light than before so there's a massive reassessment going on.

What I don't like about Dr Wright's writings is that he seems to be a little homophobic (though it's odd that he calls Bruckner a spiritual man and makes no mention of his homosexuality) and also rather repetitive. The phrase 'a real man' keeps cropping up in the biographies of heterosexual composers. And several times he reiterates that Walton thought that Shostakovich was the greatest composer of the last century (something I wouldn't try to deny).

Anyway, Dr Wright's writings are very interesting and persuasive if not a little contentious, but beware- they can really distort your perception on the music you love.


Anonymous said...

I agree that Wright is a homophobis self regarding reputation-destroying monster and should not be taken seriously

Anonymous said...

I've just looked through a few of Wright's writings. Whilst containing some interesting info, I was amazed at how unbalanced they are and seem unable to separate fact from opinion. His article on Simon Rattle is, largely, not based on evidence but on his clear view that Rattle is a hopeless conductor. If one reads pieces lacking in fact and simply based on prejudice, it is difficult to take him seriously.
I would seriously be concerned about his mental state and consider paranoia a likely diagnosis.

Anonymous said...

I have read Dr Wright's essay about Benjamin Britten, and was totally fascinated by it, but began to feel that Dr Wright was so vicious that there surely had to be be a reason for it.

I don't want to speculate on that, but I found it very disturbing as I have, at the age of 75, only just discovered this week that Britten's music might have some appeal to me. This is after a lifetime of ignoring it as modern music and British,and therefore it could be of no interest to me. It seems I had forgotten about Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice.

The aspect that concerns me is that Britten's operas seem rather tuneless to me. And it the word tuneless
that brought up Dr Wright's article in a Google search.

Peter Skirrow said...

I think the comments here miss some very important questions. Like others, I find myself interested in Wright's comments. He claims to have been present at events with Britten and to have witnessed things. Given that lovers of Britten's music have every reason to suppress unpleasant facts about Britten, Wright's comments are of interest, BUT; the way he presents his claims is unreasonable. He makes bold statements without giving enough justification, and his site has no means of contact - he seems to want to fire off abusive material but not have to justify it. He also insists that his writings are 'copyright reserved', and must not be quoted; he even writes an article on copyright, yet the simple truth is that copyrighted material can be quoted freely, without permission, within the limitations of 'fair use', whether he likes it or not, and without such possibility much debate would be stifled.

There are some real issues here, beyond frantic claims of 'decency' versus 'pederasty'. Like it or not, many men are attracted to men, and to boys. The real issue is surely whether there is good reason for us to consider either of these things as bad FOR SOCIETY. Many would claim that there is, in particular because of the possibility that youngsters are 'recruited' or even just presented with unusual models, of friendship and lifestyle at a time when they are vulnerable; with the possibility of sexual or value-based imprinting - a phenomenon that undoubtedly occurs in other animals and has been widely studied by ethologists. Even the stalking of a pederast, as in 'Death in Venice' can have undesirable effects on the object of attraction; regardless of whether 'nothing happened', or 'he didn't cross the line'; phrases used so often in the biographies of Britten.

It's not about fear, or hatred, but cause for rational analysis. In 'Pete Grimes' Britten seems to be saying, largely through the music, 'feel sorry for the pederast/cruel abuser, he is just an outsider who gets picked on.' Does that message make any sense, other than to a narcissist who does not recognise the feelings of others, or the possibility that society's values are not without their reasons. Not to me. The original poem by Crabbe did make sense - it described an undoubted psychopath.

Kevin Elkins said...

I was pleased to find the writing of Dr. Wright on the internet, and find them to be very interesting. However, he makes startling statements like "Karajan is a dreadful conductor". Any output is hit or miss, but it seems strange that he throws out the entire output of a conductor's work, because he is a Nazi, or because he is narcissistic, and so on. Surely, this sort of view is rightly out of the mainstream. Moreover, in articles such as Solti (whom I believe is bad), he never says why he is bad. Rushed, charmless, angst fest recordings for instance. Instead he focuses mostly on the personality. I am a record collector, and I actually find the habit of asking about their personality to be ridiculous. So what? A great recording is a great recording period, and we should not think in broad categories or nitpick. However, even if it is irrelevant to me, I do find his pessimistic comments very interesting, in a way you might feel if buying the National Enquirer.

Thomas Andrews said...

Wright's comments on Schubert reveal an unhealthy interest in other people's sexuality. In addition, his declaration that Schubert was "lazy" is so absurd that it calls into question any other observations this brilliant "musicologist" may have to offer.