An Accident of Birth
I am listening to WETA-FM right now, and their big Brahms-Tchaikovsky birthday bash. It makes a convenient programming ploy for the station, because Brahms and Tchaikovsky shared a May 7 birthday (Brahms in 1833, Tchaikovsky in 1840). Wherever the souls of Brahms and Tchaikovsky are residing now, they must be gnashing their spectral teeth, for each had a deep, abiding detestation of the other's music. Tchaikovsky went so far as to call Brahms "a talentless bastard" in a letter to a friend, and I don't think they even choose to make public what Brahms said about Tchaikovsky!
One wonders if in the future there will be pretexts for Leonardo-Michelangelo weekends, Voltaire-Rousseau weekends or Hemingway-Faulkner weekends, to name three other pairs of implacable antagonists. With the passage of time and the hard-wiring of all these names into the Canon of Western Civilization, the idea of these artists being enemies seems ineffably ridiculous. And so it is with Brahms and Tchaikovsky: Brahms hated Tchaikovsky's music, and Tchaikovsky hated Brahms' music, which is proof positive that they were idiots. Anyone who hears the third movement of Brahms' Third Symphony, or the opening of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, can only agree. Meanwhile, I will continue to listen to WETA this morning, to treat myself to some of the most beautiful music of the 19th century.