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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LISZTS | 7 Musicians Who Were Caught Doing Things They Shouldn't

By Ludwig Van on May 7, 2019

1 —

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 by conducting his own arrangement of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The police were not impressed, particularly with his “liberal” use of harmony under the melody. The 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:

2 —

Glenn Gould

Occupation: Pianist/Producer/Composer

Crime: Suspicion of Vagrancy

While in Sarasota Florida for a concert, Toronto-based pianist Glenn Gould — who famously had a proclivity for wearing hats, gloves, and winter coats 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.

3 —

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.

4 —

Ludwig van Beethoven

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 the Austrian town of Weiner Neustadt. He became lost and started peering into the windows of homes looking for someone to ask for help. A beat cop saw him peeping through someone’s curtains and 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 bail him out.

5 —

Johann Sebastian 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.

6 —

Montserrat Caballé

Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé as Violetta in La traviata, her Lyric Opera of Chicago (Photo: David H. Fishman/Lyric Opera of Chicago)

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.

7 —

Franz Schubert

Occupation: Composer

CHARGE: Opprobrious language

While enjoying a rowdy evening out with his friends, Franz Schubert was arrested in Vienna under suspicion of being up to no good. While being accosted by the police, he insulted them, resulting in a charge of using abusive language.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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