Stravinsky's best catty comments

Not content with making himself heard through his music alone, Stravinsky was also an enthusiastic commentator on the music of others. Only too happy to share entertaining anecdotes and his endless (and often inflammatory) opinions on the culture of the day, in many ways his interviews and writings are a lot like his compositions: eloquent, provocative, and sometimes gloriously impolite. Here are some of our favourite catty comments from Igor Stravinsky...

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'Why is it that whenever I hear a piece of music I don't like, it's always by Villa-Lobos?'

(On Handel's Theodora‘It's beautiful and boring. Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end’

'Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune'

'It is not, generally, a good sign when the first thing we remark about a work is its instrumentation; and the composer we remark it of - Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel - are not the best composers'

(On Olivier Messiaen) ‘All you need in order to write like him is a large bottle of ink’ 

'Academies are formed by bad artists who wish to distinguish themselves by subsequently electing a few good ones'

'I had another dream the other day about music critics. They were small and rodent-like with padlocked ears, as if they had stepped out of a painting by Goya'

‘Rachmaninoff's immortalizing totality was his scowl. He was a six-and-a-half-foot-tall scowl'




But in the interests of balance, it's fair to say that Stravinsky himself had to take his share of colourful criticism too...

‘I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music’ – Benjamin Britten on Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress

'I had no idea Stravinsky disliked Debussy as much as this' – Ernest Newman on Stravinsky's Symphony of Wind Instruments, dedicated to the memory of Debussy