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Good pieces vs. bad pieces

The French playwright Molière once said, “Anyone can be an honorable man, and yet write verse badly.” Well, no one would dispute that there are many honorable men and women who write music. But if there are such things as “good pieces” or “great pieces,” then there must also be such things as bad pieces. There must be pieces that don’t work very well or don’t work at all, pieces that don’t offer much even to the most open-minded and honorable of music lovers.

Do we agree that Bach and Handel were the greatest composers of the Baroque era? Well, then the other Baroque composers were . . . less great. And some were not very good at all. We have little difficulty in agreeing on many of these distinctions when the composers in question are long dead. Why not make distinctions while people are still alive, when making these distinctions might be even more useful?

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.