Money’s role in making composing possible is the most scandalously undercovered topic in all of musicology. Many otherwise probing composer biographies are strikingly deficient in their documentation of composers’ financial day-to-day lives. Jan Swafford’s Charles Ives: A Life with Music and Eric Gordon’s Mark the Music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein are notable exceptions, strong in their documentation of the quotidian dollars and cents. Why is a composer’s sex life open to inquiry and his money life not? In an article printed in the February 1, 1970, Sunday New York Times, Harold Schonberg cited as history’s five richest classical composers Rossini, Meyerbeer, Verdi, Puccini, and Strauss, all opera guys. Wonder if that would still be the list in 2007.
I’m just one chapter into Alex Ross‘ magnum opus (so far) The Rest is Noise (Listening to the Twentieth Century). I’m loving it so far, and have learned several things so far that I never knew, but should have at least been aware of, specifically that Strauss’ Salome was not premiered in Vienna, but in Graz, and that Adolf Hitler may have been in attendance at the premiere. I was also not aware of the amount of interaction between Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. My bad! Alex’s good!