Composers are doers of deeds.

( Roger Sessions )

He was a beautiful sunset confused for a sunrise.

( Debussy, on Wagner )

Stand up before this music and use your God given ears.

( Ives, on Ruggles )

I have always reckoned myself among the greatest admirers of Mozart,

and shall do so until the day of my death.

( Beethoven )

If life were to deprive me of hope and faith,

this one chorale would bring them back.

( Mendelssohn to Schumann, on Bach’s “Make Yourself Beautiful, Beloved Soul” )

[I seek] to inspire the pupils with abhorrence of the crudities of Bach.

( Joseph Hiller, who succeeded Bach as cantor of Thomasschule in Leipzig )

The two greatest events in German history in my lifetime

were the foundation of the German Empire

and the complete publication of Bach

( Brahms )

If only your pure and clean mind could touch me, dear Haydn!

Nobody has a greater reverence for you than I have.

( Schubert )

The stern and loyal mastery of our great Beethoven easily triumphed

over this vague and high-flown charlatanism [of Wagner].

( Debussy )

A poem in a glance, a novel in a sigh.

( Berg, on Webern )

If a young man at the age of twenty-three can write a symphony like that,

in five years he will be ready to commit murder.

( Walter Damrosch, on Aaron Copland )

Beethoven is now ripe for the madhouse.

( Carl Maria von Weber, on hearing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony )

In the name of the gods of music, and of mine, do not touch a single note

of what you have written in your [String] Quartet.

( Debussy to Ravel.  Ravel obeyed )

I believe I never had a more serious pupil than you.

( Sechter, to Bruckner )

I have never heard anybody else play with so much

mind and charm as Mozart.

( Clementi )

Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned

by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down.

( Berlioz )

Truly, a divine spark dwells in Schubert.

( Beethoven )

Long live Rameau, down with Gluck.

( Debussy )

I am a first-class composer of the second rank.

( Richard Strauss )

I owe very, very much to Mozart; and if one studies, for instance,

the way in which I write for string quartet, then one cannot deny that I have learned this directly from Mozart. And I am proud of it!

( Schönberg )

It is indeed a pity to lose so great a genius.

( Salieri, on Mozart’s death )

Handel is the greatest of us all, the unattained master of all masters,

the greatest composer that ever lived.  I would uncover my head

and kneel on his grave. Go and learn from him how to achieve

vast effects with simple means.

( Beethoven )

It’s like staring at a cow for a long time.

( Stravinsky, on Vaughan Williams’ Third Symphony )

It reminds me of a cow looking over a gate.

( Constant Lambert, on Vaughan Williams’ Third Symphony )

I see it as a pantheistic requiem for the dead of World War One.

( Michael Kennedy, on Vaughan Williams’ Third Symphony )

I am not a self-conscious composer.

( Samuel Barber )

It’s about F minor.

( Vaughan Williams, when asked what his Fourth Symphony was about )

I cannot disguise the fact that I am painfully disappointed;

in spite of its workmanship, I feel it lacks melody.

( Clara Schumann, on Brahms’ First Symphony )

One of the greatest musicians in the world.

( Ravel, on de Falla )

Hats off, gentlemen: a genius.

( Schumann, on Chopin )

Quite possibly the very greatest composer of his century.

( Virgil Thompson, on Chopin )

Music was never for Massenet the cosmic voice

heard by Bach and Beethoven.

( Debussy )

We all drew on the comfort which is given out by the major works of Mozart, which is as real and material as the warmth given up by a glass of brandy.

( Rebecca West )

Another significant influence, other than Chabrier - is from Satie,

who had a notable effect on Debussy, on myself, and, to tell the truth,

on the majority of modern French composers.

( Ravel )

Mr. Wagner has beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour.

( Rossini )

I think of Shostakovich as the second,

or even third, pressing of Mahler.

( Boulez )

I found the Second Symphony of Sibelius vulgar, self-indulgent,

and provincial beyond all description.

( Virgil Thompson )

This boy will throw us all into the shade

( Johann Adolf Hasse, on Mozart, aged 11 )

Debussy had the soul of an artist,

capable of the rarest and most subtle perceptions.

( Puccini, on Debussy )

Bach is that benevolent god, to whom musicians should offer a prayer

before starting to work, so that they may be saved from mediocrity.

( Debussy )

Beethoven is a genius able to dispense with taste.

Mozart, his equal in genius, has, in addition, the most delicate taste.

( Debussy )

The Ninth Symphony is the most triumphant example

of the molding of an idea to the preconceived form.

This music sprang from a soul drunk with liberty.

( Debussy, on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony )

The true lesson taught by Beethoven was not the preserving

of the ancient forms … rather, he would invite us

to gaze through the open window to the clear sky.

( Debussy )

You may be sure that Bach, in whom is all music,

snapped his fingers at harmonic formulas.

( Debussy )

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown,

he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure

that one note follows another...

and he leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.

( Leonard Bernstein )

The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up

all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.

( Benjamin Britten )

Wagner’s art can never completely die.  It will suffer that inevitable decay,

the cruel mark of time on all beautiful things; yet noble ruins must remain,

in the shadow of which our grandchildren will brood over the past splendor

of this man, who, if he had been a little more human,

would have been altogether great.

( Debussy )

That was one of the big problems when I was at Harvard studying music.

We had to write choral pieces in the style of Brahms, which was distressing because in the end you realized how good Brahms is, and how bad you are.

( Elliott Carter )

Brahms' Variations are better than mine, but mine were written before his.

( Liszt )

For Debussy the musician and the man I have had profound admiration,

but by nature I'm different from him. I think I have always personally

followed a direction opposed to that of the symbolism of Debussy.

( Ravel )

Parsifal is one of the loveliest monuments of sound ever raised

to the serene glory of music.

( Debussy )

He knows how to make great effects better than any of us;

when he chooses he can strike like a thunderbolt.

( Mozart, on Handel )

He could compose a motet in eight parts as quickly as one writes a letter.

( Handel, on Teleman )

Why waste money on psychotherapy

when you can listen to Bach’s B Minor Mass?

( Michael Torke )

From Haydn I first learned how to compose a quartet.

( Mozart )

I declare to you before God as a man of honor, that your son

is the greatest composer I know, either personally or by reputation;

he has taste, and beyond that the most consummate knowledge

of the art of composition.

( Haydn, to Leopold Mozart )

My recollections of Mendelssohn’s playing

are among the most delightful things in my artistic life.

It was to me a shining ideal, full of genius and life,

united with technical perfection.

( Clara Schumann )

No, it’s a Bb.  It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but it’s right.

( Vaughan Williams, to a musician’s questioning of a certain note in his Fourth Symphony )

Napoleon is dead but Beethoven lives.

( Bruno Walter )

You are about to hear the greatest symphony since Beethoven.

( Walton, on Vaughan Williams’ Fourth Symphony )

I don’t know if I like it; but it is what I meant.

( Ralph Vaughan Williams, on his own Fourth Symphony )

You can't possibly listen to the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh

and go slow.

( Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket )

No one has given utterance to the best within us in tones more gentle

and profound.  He is unique and will remain so.

( Debussy, on Moussorgsky )

This work of yours gives me the greatest pleasure.

( Wagner, to Bruckner, on his Third Symphony )

Wagner was never of service to music.

( Debussy )

He [Stravinsky] is inclining dangerously toward Schönberg.

( Debussy )

[I find] the theme of the First Movement wanting in dignity,

the Trio of the Scherzo too grotesque, and the last movement

replete with unmeaning babble.

( Louis Spohr, in his autobiography, on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony )

Among all the composers alive, Cherubini is the most worthy of respect.

( Beethoven )

What a good thing it isn’t music.

( Rossini, on Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique )

A hack in a trance.

( Gershkovich, on Shostakovich )

Rossini would have become a great composer if his teacher

had frequently applied some blows ad posteriora.

( Beethoven )

If someone conducts a Beethoven performance

and doesn't have to go to the osteopath, then there's something wrong.

( Simon Rattle )

He deplored that his own keyboard instrument [the piano]

had conditioned our ears to accept only an infinitesimal part

of the infinite graduations of sounds of nature.

However, when I said that I was through with tonality,

his quick response was: You are denying yourself a very beautiful thing.

( Varese, on Ferruccio Busoni )

A great man who responds to neglect with contempt.

( Schönberg, on Ives )


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