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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, November 16

Gluck sings the blues

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1777, the German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck was baffled by Parisian audiences and wrote these lines to a friend:

“I am so much disgusted with music that at present that I would not write one single note for any amount of money… Never has a more keenly-fought battle been waged than by the enemies of my new opera, ‘Armide.’ The intrigues against my previous operas were no more than little skirmishes in comparison. Admirers tell me, ‘Sir, you are fortunate to be enjoying the honor of persecution’ and ‘every genius has had the same experience’— Bah! To the devil with their fine speeches!

“Still, yesterday, at the eighth performance of ‘Armide,’ the hall was so tightly packed that when a man was asked to take off his hat, he replied, ‘Come and take it off yourself, I can’t move my arms!’—which caused laughter. I have seen people coming out with their hair bedraggled and their clothes drenched as though they had fallen into a stream. Only the French would pay for such an experience!”

Gluck would ultimately triumph in Paris and could count among his most ardent supporters none other than the French queen, Marie Antoinette—who presumably had a much cooler and certainly less crowded box at the opera.

Music Played in Today's Program

Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787) Act 2 aria, from Armide Rockwell Blake, tenor; Monte Carlo Philharmonic; Patrick Fournillier, cond. EMI 55058

Christoph Willibald von Gluck Don Juan Ballet Music Rhine Chamber Orchestra of Cologne; Jan Corazolla, cond. Christophorus 74507

Additional Information

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