I opened up Twitter yesterday and saw Beethoven trending, which meant he had either died, again, been posthumously cancelled, or was enjoying a very quiet birthday below ground. Thankfully, it was the latter, and so:
Happy 250th Birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven!
Beethoven wrote many letters, including, most famously, a romantic one to his mysteriously named “Immortal Beloved.” But today I’m more interested in the far less endearing but much more entertaining note he scribbled in 1825 to Gottfried Weber, a renowned music theorist who had reviewed Wellington’s Victory scathingly. Thinking about Beethoven’s hilariously graceless reply yesterday brought to mind a bunch of similarly furious letters sent over the years by musical men to critics—and, because you deserve such goodness, I thought I’d send you a little list which touches on a few, beginning with Ludwig. Enjoy x
You wretched scoundrel! What I shit is better than anything you could ever think up!
Beethoven | Note to critic Gottfried Weber, 1825
Permit me to suggest that, abandoning the pretence that you are in any way qualified to pass judgement on music you would be much better employed in playing tennis than reporting concerts at any time, and that you would be still better employed in buggering yourself with a pair of exceptionally well-greased bellows.
Philip Heseltine | Letter to critic Percy Scholes, 1925
What you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank.
Liberace | Telegram to the Daily Mirror, 1956
I’ve made my inquiries, I am your Rock N’ Roll nightmare. And you… You’re just gonna sit on your wannabe ass and watch me, born a Hoosier, grow larger than you could ever imagine or ever be able to stop. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate your anger, hostility and general ignorance. It shows me my so called “RANTS” are a much needed, missing piece in our puzzle of society.
Stay away from microwaves.
Axl Rose | Letter to critic Marc Allan, 1992
Thou eunuch of language; thou Englishman, who never was south the Tweed; thou servile echo of fashionable barbarisms; thou quack, vending the nostrums of empirical elocution; thou marriage-maker between vowels and consonants, on the Gretna-green of caprice; thou cobler, botching the flimsy socks of bombast oratory; thou blacksmith, hammering the rivets of absurdity; thou butcher, embruing thy hands in the bowels of orthography; thou arch-heretic in pronunciation; thou pitch-pipe of affected emphasis; thou carpenter, mortising the awkward joints of jarring sentences; thou squeaking dissonance of cadence; thou pimp of gender; thou Lyon Herald to silly etymology; thou antipode of grammar; thou executioner of construction; thou brood of the speech-distracting builders of the Tower of Babel; thou lingual confusion worse confounded; thou scape-gallows from the land of syntax; thou scavenger of mood and tense; thou murderous accoucheur of infant learning; thou ignis fatuus, misleading the steps of benighted ignorance; thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense; thou faithful recorder of barbarous idiom; thou persecutor of syllabication; thou baleful meteor, foretelling and facilitating the rapid approach of Nox and Erebus.
Robert Burns | Letter to an unknown critic, 1791
To Monsieur Fuckface Poueigh, Famous Pumpkin and Composer for Nitwits
Lousy ass-hole, this is from where I shit on you with all my force.
Erik Satie | Letter to critic Jean Poueigh, 1917
If as you say the average fascist scumbag wouldn’t be in the least offended by my work, then how come it got up your nose so successfully you dipshit fascist simpleton?
Sting | Letter to critic Howard Hampton, 1987
Being a theatre critic and not a music critic, you must have strayed into the Gaiety by mistake last Monday night, possibly looking for the rear entrance to Neary’s pub, but you certainly arrived with the word “prejudice” burned into your furrowed brow. How it must have galled you to hear the rapturous welcome I received at the start of the show; how you must have writhed at every standing ovation; how you must have cringed at every call of “Chris, we love you”; how you must have felt isolated as the audience rose to their feet as one, singing, dancing and shouting out for more; how you must have growled to yourself as you left, surrounded by so many happy people, to make your curmudgeonly way to the safety of the street outside. You really should look up the word “entertainment” again, you might be surprised to see that it is all about people having a GOOD TIME!! Your churlish review is an insult to all those who enjoyed their night out, and in these days of collapsing newspaper sales and an entire new generation on the way who will get their information online, you may be looking for another job sooner rather than later. Your pals in the pub must have loved your review, but it seems that you are universally loathed in the theatre world. A leading impresario has described you as “puffed up with his own self-importance”, and a much-loved and successful actress refers to you as “that loathsome little turd”. Great accolades, to be sure.
Chris de Burgh | Letter to critic Peter Crawley, 2009
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