Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frederick the Great at Carnegie Hall

My alert mother Susan Raccoli called my attention to this New York Times review of a concert I'm sure I've would have enjoyed celebrating the music of Prussia's remarkable King Frederick the Great (1712-1786) and the composers he sponsored.  "In a country where eliminating public support for the arts can be used as a campaign stop applause line, it may seem unthinkable, but there was a time when a court prima donna pulled a greater government salary than a cabinet minister.  Frederick II’s Prussia, in which this fantastical situation was reality, was one of history’s great musical hotbeds. The king was a composer and flutist so devoted to the arts that as an 18-year-old prince he tried to escape to England rather than accept his father’s restrictions on his playing."  "It is amazing that a king wrote music that can be played without embarrassment centuries later at Carnegie Hall, and Frederick’s Flute Concerto No. 3 in C is sprightly and fluent."  I discussed Frederick's contributions to music in a 2002 paper as a graduate student at Juilliard.  Even when kings were not as talented as Frederick was, they generally cared about artistic excellence and wanted to be associated with art of the highest quality, a trait sadly but (for monarchists) unsurprisingly lacking in today's democratic politicians who prefer to pander to the lowest common denominator.

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