I just love Jeffrey Tucker’s essay on the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and the richness of commercial culture. (And I thank Jeff for finally helping me to put my finger on why I didn’t like Immortal Beloved as much as I expected to like it.) A slice:
But even here, the perception that commerce would taint serious music persisted. And it persisted despite all evidence. G.F. Handel moved from Germany to Italy to England chasing commercial opportunities. He reused tropes from his Italian liturgical music for his English oratorios. And the themes of his oratorios finally settled on stories from Hebrew scriptures precisely because these stories experienced popular success in 18th-century England.
Some people might imagine that someone like J.S. Bach would be free from such grubby commercial dealings, but his hundreds of cantatas were written as a job obligation in exchange for wages. His famous Brandenburg Concertos were composed as demonstration projects when seeking a new gig. And just as with later composers like Johannes Brahms, he paid the bills through teaching far less than through performance. Other composers like Gioacchino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi experienced wild popular success, while Richard Wagner became the subject of a cult of his own.