The Magazine

Keeping it Real

From Schubert to Shakur, musical violence is an old story.

Dec 19, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 14 • By JOE QUEENAN
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Obviously, not every great composer was a thug. Dvorak was gentle as a lamb, as were Elgar, Grieg, Scriabin, and Cherubini. Anton Bruckner stabbed only one rival in the retina his entire life, and always claimed that he'd mistaken Richard Strauss for an intruder. But for every meek and mild Bruckner there was a stone-cold psychopath like Johannes Brahms.

"Brahms blinded his first agent, fed his publisher's right ear to his pet piranha, Sasha, and paid to have an opera critic gang-raped by lovesick Montenegrin goatherds," says Javala. "And Brahms didn't even write operas. So the next time you hear someone complaining about rappers, just remind them: Gangstas are pussycats compared with late 19th-century German post-Romantic composers. And don't even get me started on Rimsky-Korsakov and that crew!"

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country.