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4 - C. P. E. Bach and the Neoclassical Sublime: Revisions of a Concept

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2020

Sarah Hibberd
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Miranda Stanyon
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

Over the course of the eighteenth century, German intellectuals, including musicians and writers on music, gradually reconsidered the terms of neoclassical criticism, in particular sublimity and simplicity. At first, following French neoclassical poetics, they tended to seek sublimity in religious or ethical messages, presented as simply as possible. Thus, Gellert recommended that the poems in his Geistliche Oden und Lieder (1757) be sung to the accompaniment of well-known chorale tunes. He offered some mild criticism of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s moderately elaborate settings of his collection of religious poetry. By the end of the century, drawing increasingly on British models, Germans increasingly sought sublimity in large-scale, elaborate works, such as Bach’s Heilig. However, they did not let go of the neoclassical ideal or language of simplicity. Simplicity was seen to lie in the singular and striking effect, that is, in the mere fact of transport. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, critics such as Christian Friedrich Michaelis would take the idea that complex works could seem simple in their effects and use it to ground the new work aesthetic.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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