BADNESS IN classical music - at least in the classical music you are likely to hear very often - is usually a matter of degree, of fairly sbtle nuance and of personal taste. Most performers who get to sing or play before large audiences (even Van Cliburn, even Luciano Pavarotti, even - heaven help us - Virgil Fox) have a lot going for them or they would have been driven out of their highly competitve trade years ago.

Of those three, only Fox is positively bad in that he distorts outrageously the music he is playing - sexed-up Bach, you might say, but Bach, who had two wives (one at a time) and 20 children, needs no circus tricks to make his music sexy. Most big-name performing musicians are bad insofar as they are limited, cultivating a small corner of a very large art, while other promising areas are neglected. They deserve boos because they are not fulfilling a duty to the art that has made them well-known and well-fed: the duty of helping the art itself to grow. Instead of searching for new repertoire (classics as well as contemporary compositions), these artists tend to stick to the "top 40" in their fields.

But can you hiss Cliburn's "Moonlight Sonata" simply because it isn't a work by Stockhausen? Clearly, the weight of disapproval would be heavier in an average concert audience if he played a modern, dissonant work like "Klavierstuck IX" than if he didn't. So perhaps the critics should boo the audiences. Or boo the two main symptoms of decadence in classical music: the star system and the conservatory traditions that push the performance of a small number of classics into more and more rarefied areas of refinement while the vast bulk of available and worthwhile music languishes unheard. Yes, Beethoven is better than Berwald. But not "that" much better.

My personal boos to the following:

"Scheherazade" (Rimsky-Korsakov's, not Ravel's)

All compositions by Chopin that last less than five minutes.

All orchestral works that require six or more percussionists (chamber music for six or mroe percussionists is all right).

The Quartetto Italliano.

All compositions with wordless women's choruses (except Debussy's).

"La Boheme."

All tenors except Peter pears.

Peter Pears.

All sonata-form works that have a funeral march for a slow movement.

Jascha Heifetz.

The first 90 seconds of "Also sprach Zarathustra."

Eugene Ormandy.

The libretto of "The Magic Flute."

People who wear purple sleeve garters while playing Scott Joplin.

The 20th current recording of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (Philips 9500146); the 25th of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" (CMS/Oryx 11); the 33rd of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (DG 2530783); the 14th of Franck's Symphony in D minor (London 7044), regardless of how well they are played and recorded.

The rest of "Also sprach Zarathustra."