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LISZTS | 6 Classical Musicians With A Criminal Past

By Michael Vincent on March 11, 2016

Igor Stravinsky

igor-stravinsky

Occupation: Composer

Crime: Defaming The American National Anthem

Igor Stravinsky was a composer who made an entire career out of riling up the musical establishment. He said he hoped his riot-inducing “The Rite of Spring” would send the European establishment all to hell. The riots ensued, and so did his reputation. The following year in 1944 – while he was in Boston, Massachusetts to conduct the Boston Symphony – he marked the occasion to conduct his own arrangement of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The police were not impressed, especially by his use of a seemingly innocuous dominant seventh chord. They police forced him to pull the arrangement from the program the following day. All that for a dominant seventh chord… You can hear the offending anthem here.

Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould
Glenn Gould

Occupation: Pianist/Producer/Composer

Crime: Suspicion of Vagrancy

While in Sarasota Florida for a concert, Toronto-based pianist Glenn Gould – who had a proclivity for wearing hats, gloves, and winter coat in the summer – thought he’d take in some air on a park bench before a concert.  He was approached by Police and arrested under suspicion of being a homeless drifter. Gould was later released after his identity as a famous concert pianist was revealed.

Carlo Gesualdo

Carlo Gesualdo
Carlo Gesualdo

Occupation: Composer

Crime: Double Homicide

Gesualdo’s run in with the law sounds like something right out of a horror movie. In a fit of rage after finding his lover cheating on him, Gesualdo murdered them both. He managed to escape prosecution by using his nobility to shield him. Gesualdo spent the rest of his life writing choral and instrumental music, some of which include texts that allude directly to the murder. Documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog’s made a documentary about Gesualdo called, Death for Five Voices (1995) which examines the gruesome mythos surrounding the murders and their aftermath.

Beethoven

beethoven-mugshot

Occupation: Composer

Crime: Vagrancy

Beethoven was a notorious workaholic who preferred to leave things like grooming, laundry and housework to mear mortals to worry about. Things came crashing down to earth when in 1820,  Beethoven went out for a walk in Weiner Neustadt. He eventually got lost, and was caught looking into the windows of dwellings looking for people to ask for help. A beat cop saw him peeping through someone’s curtains and promptly arrested him for vagrancy.

While in jail, Beethoven gave the constables a piece of his mind. One policeman reportedly went to a commissioner for help in dealing with him. “Herr Commissioner,” he said, “We have arrested a man who gives us no rest, and yells all the time that he is Beethoven.”

A very angry Beethoven remained in jail until the city’s musical director (Herr Herzog) came to collect him.

Johann Sebastian Bach

bach

 

Occupation: Composer

CHARGE: “Too Stubbornly Forcing The Issue Of His Dismissal.”

Bach was working a job a chamber musician in the Court of the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar in 1708 with the understanding he would eventually succeed to the position of Kapellmeister when the incumbent died. After five years of waiting the Kapellmeister died, but the job went to the Kapellmeister’s inept son. The nearby Court of Anhalt-Cöthen (a rival to Duke of Sachsen-Weimar) heard that Bach was passed up for the job, and invited him to serve as Kapellmeister for his court. Bach took the job, but not before being arrested and thrown in jail for 30 days on the order of a spiteful Duke of Sachsen-Weimar. Bach spent his time in the big house composing chorale preludes for organ, which were later published in his Orgelbüchlein.

Montserrat Caballé

montserratcaballe_0

Occupation: Singer

CHARGE: Tax Evasion

Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé made millions of fans after singing in Barcelona with Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, at the 1992 Olympic Games. Caballé achieved international success in 1965 when she made her debut filling in for another singer in Donizetti’s opera at the MET. Unfortunately, her reputation took a dive when it was discovered she had been defrauding authorities to the tune of €500,000. She was arrested and given a six-month suspended sentence with a fine of more than €250,000.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is Publisher of Ludwig Van. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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