Music – undefinable, ephemeral, with its own unique language – is ripe for snobs. The humble refer to Beethoven’s fifth symphony, snobs say the C-minor. Tough if you don’t know key signatures but at least Ludwig only wrote nine symphonies. But how about his C-sharp minor piano sonata? – given he wrote 32 of them. That, incidentally, is the Moonlight and snobs would rather burst at the seams than say Moonlight. My mentor, Richard, who was more than a bit of a snob, went even further and called it the Quasi una fantasia sonata.
LvB’s opus numbers are just about snob-manageable at 135 but Mozart’s 600-plus (called Kőchel numbers) are indigestible. And nobody plays this game with Bach whose BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) listings run all the way to 1127. In any case this is just a start. When talking about Cosi Fan Tutte snobs never say Soave il vento, always “the first-act trio”. And you’re supposed to know which three instruments solo in LvB’s triple concerto. Anything to make understanding that little bit harder.
I do it myself.
But not with pop, where I’m disadvantaged. Others do it for me. Cliff Richards sells millions of discs but have you ever met anyone who admits to having bought one? Garth Crooks, a country-western singer who wears a suit, is in the top five best-sellers of all time (with Elvis, the Beatles) and yet might as well be a Trappist. Travelling in reverse, when I saw Michael Jackson on telly for the first time I was sure no one could take this horribly mutilated creature seriously. Turned out one, if not both, of my daughters owned discs.
Jazz. The snobbiest, cliquey-ist music of all but I’ve run out of space.