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13 - Battle Rejoined: Hanslick and the Symphonic Poem in the 1890s

from Part Four - Critical Battlefields

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2013

David Larkin
Affiliation:
University College Dublin
Nicole Grimes
Affiliation:
Marie Curie Fellow at University College Dublin (UCD), and the University of California
Siobhán Donovan
Affiliation:
School of Languages and Literatures, University College Dublin (UCD)
Wolfgang Marx
Affiliation:
School of Music, University College Dublin (UCD)
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Summary

Antonin Dvorak and Richard Strauss arm in arm—a right queer sight.

—Theodor Helm

As an observer of late nineteenth-century Viennese cultural life, Eduard Hanslick towers above all other journalists and writers who attempted to map the changing face of music in this period. He has been typecast as the archenemy of musical progress, a foe to any who questioned the sacred tenets of “absolute” music, of which he was alleged to be a seminal theorist and tireless propagandist. His championing of Brahms, as guardian of what he considered the legitimate compositional tradition, is as celebrated as his opposition to Liszt, Wagner, and their ilk, is notorious. Even when it was fashionable to point up his short-sightedness in this latter area, Hanslick's critical pronouncements still continued to be invoked, arguably as much for their eloquence and acumen as out of the need to cite a representative view of misguided conservatism. As a result of the disciplinary upheavals which musicology has undergone over the last twenty-five years, Hanslick's star is again in the ascendant; his judgments have been rehabilitated and reopened to scrutiny in tandem with the dismantling of the idea of “musical progress” as an unquestioned article of faith. Reading through his concert reports offers a glimpse into the contested musical politics of the later nineteenth-century Germanic lands, a world in which old certainties were crumbling, with his being one of the few voices to offer a coherent aesthetic picture, albeit one shaped by certain contestable ideological premises.

Type
Chapter
Information
Rethinking Hanslick
Music, Formalism, and Expression
, pp. 289 - 310
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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