Musical Nosebits

Omnibus Press:
Classical Music
Quiz Book

Over 600 questions, from Bach to Bernstein. A treasure trove of questions for classical music lovers. No matter how much you think you know about classical music, you''ll find plenty of baffling questions and surprising answers.

Challenge your friends, try to answer questions round by round, or read it just for fun. You''ll have hours of enjoyment with the ultimate Classical Music Q&A book!

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A Torrent Reaction

Nikolai Rubinstein
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

"Then a torrent poured from Nikolay Grigoryevich's mouth, gentle at first, then more and more growing into the sound of a Jupiter Tonana. It turned out that my concerto was worthless and unplayable; passages were so fragmented, so clumsy, so badly written that they were beyond rescue; the work itself was bad, vulgar; in places I had stolen from other composers; only two or three pages were worth preserving; the rest must be thrown away or completely rewritten."

--- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's description of Nikolai Rubinstein's reaction after hearing Tchaikovsky play the first movement of his new Piano Concerto No. 1 --- as recalled by Tchaikovsky in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck.

Tchaikovsky's response to Nikolai Rubinstein was:

"I shall not alter a single note,
I shall publish the work exactly as it is!

That he did.


Rubinstein later repudiated his previous accusations and became a fervent champion of the work.

In later years, Tchaikovsky would do three revisions of the concerto.


Listen to the following sample from the 1st movement of Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:

"Keep your words sweet -- you may have to eat them.
I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

~Stephan Grellet~

eat your words — to admit that what you said is wrong
~Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms~
  • "I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering music.
    -- A Oulibicheff, reviewing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
  • "If Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is not by some means abridged, it will soon fall into disuse."
    -- Philip Hale, Boston Music Critic, 1837
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
    -- Western Union internal memo, 1876
  • "The phonograph has no commercial value at all."
    -- Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1880s
  • "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything."
    -- Albert Einstein's teacher to his father, 1895
  • "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
    -- Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office, 1899
  • "The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage."
    -- Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
    -- David Sarnoff, American radio pioneer, 1921
  • "The radio craze will die out in time."
    -- Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1922
  • "Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility--a development which we should waste little time dreaming about."
    -- Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray tube, 1926
  • "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
    -- H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927
  • "Sure-fire rubbish."
    -- Lawrence Gilman, reviewing Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin in the New York Herald Tribune, 1935
  • "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face, and not Gary Cooper."
    -- Gary Cooper, on declining the lead role in Gone with the Wind.
  • "The problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn't have time for it."
    -- The New York Times, 1939
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
    -- Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM, 1943
  • "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
    -- Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946
  • "Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan."
    -- Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948
  • "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
    -- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
  • "You ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck."
    -- Jim Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, in firing Elvis Presley after a performance, 1954
  • "It will be gone by June."
    -- Variety, passing judgement on rock 'n roll in 1955
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out anyway."
    -- President of Decca Records, rejecting The Beatles after an audition, 1962
    (However, Decca did sign the Rolling Stones.)
  • "The singer (Mick Jagger) will have to go; the BBC won't like him."
    -- First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform.
  • "The Beatles are not merely awful – I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as 'anti-popes'."
    -- William F. Buckley, 1964
  • "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"
    -- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer Inc., on his and Steve Wozniak's early attempts to distribute their personal computer.
    (Obviously it would Atari and Hewlett-Packard who may be eating their words.)

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