Anyways, Geoff Edgers has been posting an episodic interview with Ted Libbey, who's just written a tome called The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Music. (Apparently NPR plays other types of music than the annoying fake-world-music baby-boomer-guilt-assuaging acoustic trash it uses for bumpers on "Morning Edition." But I digress.)
Anyways, Part 3 of this interview is up, and there's a bit in it that really made me narrow my eyes. Asked what composers he's personally sick of, Libbey says:
Of the canonic "great" composers, Robert Schumann is surely the most overrated. That doesn't mean I'm sick of him...yet.Everybody's got their own tastes, of course, but when a writer on classical music disses Schumann, the most logophilic composer out there, my eyebrow goes up. Schumann not only is an unparalleled master of text-setting, but is one of the only composers to successfully create instrumental works with convincing literary structures—musical short stories and novels that can favorably compare with their word-based counterparts. (Check out the Davidsbündlertänze, an uncanny musicalization of a set of linked descriptive vignettes... and I, at least, am convinced that the Eichendorff-Liederkreis is an embedded meta-narrative in the style of Schumann's favorite novelist, Jean Paul.)
Schumann can be a tough nut to crack for performers (it was for me, anyway, but once I got through the shell, yum), but it's significant that singers, who deal with words on a daily basis, love him almost without reservation. So I'm a little suspicious of any writer who doesn't like Schumann, just as I'd be a little suspicious of any painter who couldn't appreciate Debussy, or any pastry chef who didn't care for Strauss, or any mad megalomanaical supervillian without a jukebox full of Wagner.