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  1. Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth Century Germany
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Redirected from Rehding, Alexander. Archived from the original on Retrieved Retrieved 31 May Retrieved May 7, Wolf Humanities Center. Princeton Weekly Bulletin. Harvard Music Dept Newsletter. Summer January Oxford Online Scholarship. Archived from the original on 11 October Wellesley College Office for Public Affairs. Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Harvard Initiative for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved May 8, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Harvard University. Harvard Crimson. National Sawdust Log. Cambridge University Press, May Apeiron 44 Journal of the History of Ideas.

Musicology Now sneak preview of forthcoming book. Musical Quarterly 88 Journal of the American Musicological Society 70 Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies Music Theory Online Pre-AMS conference Rochester To cut a long story short, the performance was a disaster—neither the orchestra nor the singers performed up to their expected standard. Liszt did not hesitate to seize the opportunity that this unexpected arrival offered and simply repeated the whole half-hour cantata from the top.

It was a risky decision, but he was probably hoping that the audience would believe that he had acted at the special request of the King. In true fairy-tale fashion, the second performance was a great artistic success. With this work, Liszt has raised great expectations for the future. On the contrary, audience and critics registered it as a graceful bow toward the master.

Liszt let Beethoven speak for himself—and let him praise himself. By borrowing his material directly from Beethoven, and by using it for a musical musical apotheoses 67 example 2. In his powerful and overwhelming orchestration, he had even answered to Jean Paul about the necessity of mass appeal in a monument.


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Here Liszt stepped self-consciously into the sublime symphonic tradition. We could even go further and conclude that the nature of the arrangement itself supports the new claim to apotheosis that Liszt makes in his music: where the operatic paraphrases reduce orchestra and voices to a piano texture, here the piano trio is expanded to the vast scale and monumental forces of orchestra and voices. To invoke Nietzsche again, this is due to the vacuity of the Effekt.

How does this effect of monumentality take hold? What business summoned you here? Judging by the crowds, It must be a day of celebration today. In other words, the vacuous Effekt is instilled with meaning in the context of nineteenth-century festival culture, which gives monumentality the semblance of a historical causality that it would not otherwise possess. It encourages the strong to write themselves into history. No event possesses greatness in itself. It can also happen that a man of force accomplishes a deed which strikes a reef and sinks from sight having produced no impression; a brief sharp echo, and all is over.

Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth Century Germany

History has virtually nothing to report about such as it were truncated and neutralized events. And so whenever we see an event approaching we are overcome with the fear that those who will experience it will be unworthy of it. In , while the revolution swept through Europe, the small provincial town of Weimar prepared for a big celebration. The extraordinary court Kapellmeister of Weimar, Franz Liszt, was busy organizing the celebrations for the big day.

Nonetheless, with the exception of Tasso, which was then performed in its original form, the compositions are now almost completely forgotten.


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In part, these decisions have rather mundane reasons, and can be explained with reference to the particularities of the performance for which they were written. August Further faces disappear into the background. Further up, the left margin of the image indicates a grassy hill from which three entangled stems grow up. The partition is further marked by an eagle with wide spread wings who, like Goethe himself, 74 music and monumentality figure 3.

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The body and the wing of the genie, which form a right angle, provide the remaining sides of this inner frame. With great tenderness, he holds sounding souvenirs 75 Goethe by the hand, which the poet barely extends. Goethe, too, is wrapped in a cloth, covering his whole body, which looks half like a classic toga, half like a shroud. Incidentally, it is the genie, not Goethe, who wears the laurel wreath, which seems to underline further the spiritual link between the two.

Music and Monumentality : Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth Century Germany

At the same time, the text is written into the sky and supports in its slight curvature the rays of the, one assumes, rising sun, which lightens up a stark but Arcadian landscape behind hills and sea. This long description mainly serves to show one thing: the whole scene depicts something of an overkill of sublime motives, in which any number of symbols of light and dark known to nineteenth-century culture are employed and offered up for immediate consumption.

In short, it can easily be recognized as Kitsch—that slippery and deceptively complex aesthetic phenomenon of nineteenth-century mass culture. He deploys all that nineteenth-century progressive harmony has to offer: mysteriously interrupted six-fours, surprising third-related sequential patterns, and ominous chromatic relations. On the whole, one could easily think of this setting as a study in chromatic third-relations, as the six verses of the ode are all based on the same material but develop it in different directions.

The only feature common to all verses are the brash effects in which distant harmonies are juxtaposed. It is, like the overripe image surrounding its reprint in the Illustrirte Zeitung, the overly clear gesture of sublimity, whose content remains tantalizingly unclear. And it must remain so: its very unhewn quality is the compositional device for our incomprehension.


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  • Played as it is in emphatic octaves, it exudes the mystique of a cryptic code. But again, it matters much less that we understand and decipher the code than that we acknowledge the existence of a code, as well as admitting our inability to know for sure what it stands for. This acknowledgment, and the circumstance that the riddle is unsolved, heighten the mysteriousness of the music, and hence the veneer of its importance. It stretches the imagination to suggest that the readers of the Illustrirte Zeitung would form small male choruses to re-create the piece in their homes, let alone that the majority of the readership was musically literate.

    At the same time, no other score in the Illustrirte Zeitung was decorated as lavishly as this commemoration of Goethe. It seems that the wide distribution of the score, with the illustration that suggested an interpretation from the visual domain, mattered more than the performance of the music. The curious illustrated score in the Illustrirte Zeitung presents yet another form of the souvenir, this time of a much less personal nature than the keepsake album handed out after the Weimar festivities, more complex and more modern perhaps, but no less distinctive in its function.

    If it has a purpose, it is one of commemoration. However, the commemorative function of the musical souvenir is a very peculiar one: for most readers of the Illustrirte Zeitung, the events in Weimar of August 28, could not evoke any particular memories, not least since the actual celebrations were an exclusive affair. And yet, the souvenir invites the wider world to partake of this commemoration this is probably also the reason for its publication three days prior to the actual event.

    Such a souvenir is not characterized by its subtlety.

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    Rather, its success lies in its immediacy. Liszt went out of his way to forge a link between the two projects. The most famous names and most weighty memories of these two epochs were evenly distributed among the beautiful areas of Romantic Thuringia. To begin with, it was its Margraves who immortalized their names by means of the protection that they afforded to the most famous poets of their time: Wolfgang von Eschenbach, author of Parsifal, Walther von der Vogelweide, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, native of Eisenach, Bitterolf, etc.

    Here was a modern work by what was by all accounts a progressive and controversial composer. On the level that our music has assumed particularly since the second half of the [eighteenth] century, it cannot stand up to such profusion. It is destroyed in its innermost substance without being able to have a lasting fertilizing effect on the masses. As a card-carrying Left-Hegelian, Brendel was a fervent believer in progress in music, but he admitted that these progressive artistic values were actually impeded by the wide availability of music.

    Its innovations invariably made greater demands on the listener; progressive music therefore had an inherent bent towards unpopularity and was accepted by its audiences, if at all, only slowly and grudgingly. For the time being, therefore, the prevailing compromise was so inartistic as even to put art itself in danger.

    This compromise was the specter of dilettantism. Brendel did not in fact position the music he promoted at one extreme of this axis; on the contrary, he argued that one part of the conundrum of contemporary art was that it was not exclusive enough. A change in social factors, if music aimed to appeal to mass audiences, would usher in grave aesthetic consequences. Such a sell-out would compromise or forfeit its artistic character. This is no more so the case than in anniversaries, as Liszt in Weimar was keenly aware.

    In his rhetorical gambit, he used the date of New Year to liken the organic cyclicity of the seasons to the periods of the arts. In other words, an anniversary is nothing but a monument in time. He immediately responded to this article in a letter to Liszt where he expressed his dismay. We should not suggest this to the public.

    What was life like in Weimar Germany?

    Like Gulliver, strapped down by the Lilliputians, his work is of normal—human—size but shackled by an age of musical small-mindedness.