Beecham dismissed Toscanini as “a glorified bandmaster”; Berlioz called Handel “a tub of pork and beer”. Limelight presents our five favourite one-liners of the last few centuries.

You can read more barbed comments like these in the April 2012 issue of Limelight.

5. Richard Strauss on Arnold Schoenberg

“He’d be better off shovelling snow than scribbling on manuscript paper.”

(from a letter to Alma Mahler)

4. Elliott Carter

“I would like to hear Elliott Carter’s Fourth String Quartet, if only to discover what a cranky prostate does to one’s polyphony.” James Sellars

3. Aaron Copland on Ralph Vaughan Williams

“Listening to the Fifth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes.”

2. César Cui on Sergei Rachmaninov

“If there were a conservatory in Hell, and if one of its talented students was to compose a symphony based on the story of the Seven Plagues of Egypt, and if he had written one similar to Rachmaninov’s, he would have brilliantly accomplished his task and would have delighted the inhabitants of Hell.”

St Petersburg News, March 16, 1897

1. Richard Wagner

“I love Wagner, but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws.” Charles Baudelaire

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