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Wanton abuse of language by a desperate record industry

We’ve just received the latest Nicolaus Harnoncourt release from Sony Classics.

It is titled ‘Walzer Revolution’.

A revolution is a violent upheaval in which everything changes and many people lose their lives.

A waltz is a dance in which one person tries to get another into bed, while the other thinks about it in three-four time.

Harnoncourt, originally from Graz, has spent most of his life in Vienna. He knows all about waltzes. He is descended, on his mother’s side, from Hapsburg emperors. They did not approve of revolutions. In 1848, his relative Kaiser Franz-Josef put a lot of would-be revolutionaries in front of a firing squad.

I cannot believe that Harnoncourt was responsible for this ridiculous title, introducing a selection of dances by Mozart, Lanner and Strauss. It must have been some clever little record flak in Vienna who has lost all grasp of the meaning of language and its relation to empirical truth.

I sometimes think the classical record industry (what’s left of it) lives in a parallel universe that bears no relation to reality. Here’s proof.

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  1. George SW says:

    Are you seriously complaining about the ‘bastardisation’ of language in order to sell commodities?

    Besides, a revolution is also a turn. Like in a waltz. Or the spiral on the cover.

  2. I sometimes think this blog lives in a parallel universe where it cannot decide if it seriously wants to engage with important issues concerning the arts, or just offer tittle-tattle for no purpose whatsoever.

    • If you don’t get it, Peter, try harder.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Norman, I am ambivalent about your arguments but am more interested in the music. Have you listened to the cd and what do you think? To me it looks like an excellent concept cd and I can’t wait to listen to it.

        • It’s absolutely beautiful, a revelation. The orchestral sound is very transparent and lovely, the phrasing exquisite. A most enjoyable set if you like this sort of thing (as I do).

          I think the point of the programming seems to be the continuity between Mozart’s conception of the waltz and the Strauss/Lanner idiom, so Norman is right that “revolution” (in the upheaval sense) is inappropriate, but for musical reasons.

          I like George’s point that revolution can also mean a turn, so perhaps that’s what was intended (althought that will be lost on most people).

      • Thomas P says:

        Honestly, Norman, sometimes you can be as churlish and brusque as Maestro Previn, KBE. Give Peter time.

  3. Obviously double entendre. It’s easier to understand if you ignore all Austo-Hungarian history and think of a vinyl record on a turntable. Remember Rubber Soul, Revolver?

  4. Rob Rhodes says:

    A revolution *can be* a violent upheaval (but doesn’t necessarily have to be) in which everything changes and many people lose their lives (or it might be completely bloodless).

    Or a revolution could just be the act of going round in a circle. Like people waltzing. Or like a CD.

  5. I think the punning title is both clever and appropriate. As a dance, the introduction of the waltz was indeed revolutionary (in the social sense) since it had its beginnings as a scandalous low-class dance in which you actually had to hold a partner rather tightly in order to revolve — in the planetary sense — successfully. Despite its origins, it was eventually taken up by high society as well, much like what happened to the tango. The track list of the Harnoncourt album seems to cover these beginning and transition periods quite well and the album is probably worth hearing at least once. Early waltzes on other albums have tended to be rather uninteresting, much like the endless minuets Haydn and Mozart composed to make ends meet.

  6. Thomas P says:

    It is a clever pun, and not an abuse of language. One of us didn’t get it.

  7. Emil Archambault says:

    Death: “the action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism:”

    As in The Life and Death of Classical Music…in which, incidentally, the death of classical music is the death of recorded music (according to the abstract).

    Myth: “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events”

    As in The Maestro Myth…

    Just talkin’ about misuse of language…
    Need I say more?

    • Emil, you must know that, in the harsh world of publishing, it is seldom the author who decides on titles. He is the one who has to defend them.
      That said, The Maestro Myth is a title I chose and I am proud of it. The title is fit for purpose. It describes the demythologising of conducting, which is the book’s argument.

  8. PeterAgnew says:

    But Norman, I wonder why you don’t respond to the specifics of criticisms made against your argument – about multiple meanings of the word ‘revolution’, especially in the context of dance?

  9. Judging from his response to Peter, Norman’s hyperbolic remark “lost all grasp of the meaning of language and its relation to empirical truth” could be meant ironically to give the “clever little record flak” a pat on the back for being so punny. That way it’s really a plug for the CD. Sarcasm on the internet is a tricky thing. (see RFC 1855)

  10. A video about “revolutions:” (presumably not from Bruguet watch manufacturer). The very thought of some color coded wheel turning round and round to return to the same color for every beat one of a Waltz “revolution…” or it flashing brand names and celebrity titles every time the revolution is completed!

  11. A slipped disc is a medical condition which may cause severe pain and result in permanent nerve damage or paralysis. It is also a clever title for a blog about the classical music industry, although Harnoncourt might find it ridiculous. De gustibus…

  12. Although I would have preferred hearing the Johann Strauss Sr. material on the first disc, the second, all-Lanner disc of the release in question can be auditioned in its entirety courtesy of Netherlands Radio, along with a few other recent releases they’ve deemed noteworthy.

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