When Hans Keller set about debunking musical professions he considered “phoney,” his “hit list” was predictable: opera producers, music critics, musicologists, and of course, violists and conductors. These professions were new to his generation as independent full-time activities; they were consequences of a historical process in Western Europe sociologists once termed “rationalization.” During the second half of the nineteenth century, professions became more bureaucratized along lines of ever more narrowly defined specialties. These in turn demanded the creation of targeted processes of training and certification. Expertise, particularly in medicine and science, but in the arts as well became more competitive on a massive international scale justifying discrete divisions and narrow fields.
Music critics once did something else as professionals. They were composers (Schumann, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and Virgil Thomson), teachers (Richard Wallaschek, Robert Hirsch feld, Eduard Hanslick, and Paul Henry Lang) or writers (consider Max Kalbeck, Ludwig Speidel, and, in the extreme George Bernard Shaw and Ezra Pound). Musicology became an autonomous academic field relatively late, and only in the generation of Guido Adler and Hermann Kretszchmar did music history emerge as a distinct branch of scholarship. In Keller's world (he trained in Vienna as a violinist and was forced to flee to England in 1938) great violists were actually violinists; no one set out to become a violist. Opera producers, in the contemporary sense, were entirely unknown.