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7 - Neo-classical opera

from Part two - Trends

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2011

Mervyn Cooke
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

‘Back to Bach’ ‘a call to order’ given the nature of the neo-classicists' own slogans, one can perhaps forgive their critics for portraying them as proponents of aesthetic regression. ‘Stravinsky and Reaction’ is in fact the very heading of the second half of Theodor Adorno's Philosophy of the New Music, written in the mid-1940s, in which the author uses all his formidable linguistic and philosophical powers to hold up Schoenberg as a paragon by at the same time stripping Stravinsky's works, in particular those of his neo-classical oeuvre, of any aesthetic justification: ‘the Soldier's Tale turns psychotic behavioural patterns into musical configurations without any hesitation’ ‘in purely musical terms, no difference can be perceived between his infantile and his neo-classical works’ (Adorno 1978a, 160, 187). Pierre Boulez has been more succinct in his judgement of Stravinsky's neo-classicism: ‘I really hate these works, I cannot stand them’ (in Danuser 1997, 330).

The term ‘neo-classicism’ has been used both to castigate and to praise. It has generally been applied solely to that music written between c. 1920 and 1950 which – as in the case of Stravinsky – is essentially tonal and employs formal, harmonic or melodic elements (or any combination thereof) taken from the music of the eighteenth century, often to ironic effect – though the term ‘neo-classicism’ is somewhat misleading, in that the source of those forms and gestures was primarily the music of the baroque rather than of Viennese classicism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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  • Neo-classical opera
  • Edited by Mervyn Cooke, University of Nottingham
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera
  • Online publication: 28 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521780094.008
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  • Neo-classical opera
  • Edited by Mervyn Cooke, University of Nottingham
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera
  • Online publication: 28 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521780094.008
Available formats
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To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Neo-classical opera
  • Edited by Mervyn Cooke, University of Nottingham
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera
  • Online publication: 28 September 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521780094.008
Available formats
×