I'll tell you what I hear in [Beethoven's] music as [in his] philosophy of life. With regard to Beethoven, I am profoundly opposed to his music,, specifically from the sense-of-life aspect. Esthetically, I can hear that he is a great musician. I have to acknowledge the skill with which he is presenting what he is presenting. But his music has what I call a malevolent universe. It is in essence the view that man is doomed, that he has no chance, that he cannot achieve his goals, that he cannot triumph on earth -- but must struggle just the same.... It's the belief that man must struggle even though he has no chance of winning, and that he must perish heroically. That is a malevolent view of man and of the universe, and that is what I hear in practically everything Beethoven has written.There's already been a discussion on this site about the absurdity of Rand's assertions concerning Beethoven's alleged malevolence, so there's no need to go into great detail here. In any case, since few if any admirers of Beethoven find him to be malevolent, that should be enough to settle the question. Rand is merely trying to justify her dislike of a composer that even she has to admit is a "great musician."
I think Wagner, unfortunately, is enormously vulgar, so that a sense-of-life appraisal is almost irrelevent. There is a certain musical value in some of his compositions. I would not classify him as particularly great. His melodies, which are the element by which I principally judge a composer, are, are enormously lacking in originality or inventiveness. If you strip them of all their trimming, his melodies are, with rare exceptions, street-organ or circus music. What Wagner makes his reputation on is precisely the trimmings -- the technical, alleged virtuosity of his orchestrations, with a dozen leitmotifs all mixed together, amounting to nothing. It is not a profound view of life. It is the view of a manipulator, of somebody who is playing on the fringes, but does not really have much to say.
This passage proves, more than any other, that when it comes to serious music, Rand was in way over her head. Classical musicians (i.e., those who are in the best position to judge) generally regard Wagner as one of the greatest composers. They would look upon Rand's criticisms of Wagner as ignorant and deeply prejudiced. Rand's avowal that she principally judges composer by their melodies would inspire deep contempt (the most important element in serious music tends to be harmony, not melody). Her assertion that most of Wagner's melodies are "street-organ" and "circus" music would yield howls of derision. And what is this comment about Wagner's "alleged virtuousity of orchestration": since when is Rand an expert on orchestration?This is, to be entirely frank, very embarrassing stuff; and the fact that Rand seems entirely oblivious as to how foolish she is coming off only makes it that much more cringe worthy.
On Gilbert and Sullivan:
I can't stand them.... I am positively allergic to their operattas, both to the content and to the music, but particularly the music. The content is often very clever and witty, but the sense of life projected is so satirically anti-man, that there isn't a redeeming feature anywhere. It is as if Gilbert and Sullivan were laughing at everything about man. And therefore, the sound of their music makes me uncomfortable.The odd thing here is that, even though the (alleged) "laughing at man" is entirely the product of Gilbert, that Rand objects "particularly" to Sullivan's music. If she knew nothing of Gilbert's librettos, would she still have objected to Sullivan's music?
Rand is also known to have referred to Mozart as "pre-music" and to have regarded an acquaintance who admired Richard Strauss as someone with whom she could never be "soul mates." One shudders to think what Rand would have thought of Debussy, Elgar, Mahler, and countless others of whom she was too ignorant to disparage.