To save 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 saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Chapter 3 shifts the focus to the US East Coast. Roy Harris was one of several young Americans who studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger in the 1920s; Symphony 1933 was his breakthrough work after returning home. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, who anecdotally asked for a ‘big symphony from the West’, Symphony 1933 teases out the relationships between those expansionist discourses associated with the symphony indicated by Paul Bekker (1918), liberal ideology, and the imagined spaces of the American West. Examining the reception of Symphony 1933 and its music, the chapter raises questions about how the discourse around Harris’s symphony and liberalism’s spatial narratives colluded in establishing the political hegemony of white Americans and the supposed naturalness of their right to occupy the West, an acute anxiety given the disenfranchisement of white working-class Americans during the economic collapse of the early 1930s.
Chapter 4 examines Aaron Copland’s Short Symphony (1931–3) in the context of Copland’s friendship with Mexican composer and conductor Carlos Chávez. Short Symphony was partly written in Mexico. Chávez suggested a title for the work, ‘The Bounding Line’, which Copland temporarily adopted, and he conducted the premiere in Mexico City in November 1934. Chávez’s title raises questions about mutuality within a border-crossing American symphonic project, as well as the place in Copland’s classicist symphony of bodily presence, dance, and Hellenic erotics. Copland’s aesthetics of balletic line and bodily motion suggest analytic paradigms of gentle mediation, interdependence, contact, and touch – paradigms that thus spoke to the grassroots pan-American climate of political solidarity across the American continent in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Yet, mobilising an aesthetics of the body to gently utopian symphonic ends in this context proves unsustainable. Copland does not return from this border-crossing encounter acquitted of the colonial charge.
Chapter 2 focuses on Hans Pfitzner’s Symphony in C♯ minor, a reworking of his 1925 String Quartet Op. 25, at its Berlin premiere in March 1933. This case study illuminates how National Socialist values, particularly to do with monumentality, gained traction within symphonic aesthetics. Liberal sociological theorisations of the symphony such as Paul Bekker’s (1918) seemed increasingly absurd as politics shifted and Enlightenment narratives about sovereignty reached breaking point. For instance, due to Nazi threats of violence, just days before the Berlin performance of Pfitzner’s new symphony the Philharmonie had seen the cancellation of Walter’s regular concert, precipitating his political exile. I read the Pfitzner concert’s critical reception in parallel with both Bekker’s symphonic utopianism and emerging Nazi symphonic aesthetics, exploring Pfitzner’s symphony as caught between these two symphonic poles. I pay attention to how discourses of public and private space associated with the symphony and chamber music allow a clear view of fascist reformulations of subjectivity and space in this context marked by Walter’s persecution.
Premiered in Berlin, but composed in Paris, Arthur Honegger’s Mouvement symphonique n° 3 was a commission for the Berlin Philharmonic, and Chapter 5 deals with its reception, bringing the book back to its two major European centres. For reviewers, Swiss-German Honegger’s work, the third in a trio of symphonic movements that began with Pacific 231 and Rugby, was unambiguously neither French nor German, and it reveals mechanisms by which commentators sought either to assimilate the work with, or expel it from, Germanic idealist aesthetic traditions. Despite the work’s ‘sober and unprepossessing’ title, this chapter suggests that Mouvement symphonique n° 3 had a critical political programme – even if programmatic aspects were barely acknowledged in the critical reception. Manipulating the symphonic form, and referencing Beethovenian subjective narratives in particular, the work considers the changing relationship between the individual and the collective within a tumultuous era of political and industrial/technological upheaval, ultimately lamenting over the ruins of both the symphony and the utopian political project it represented.
Part introduction to the frame around 1933, part initial case study, the first chapter introduces Kurt Weill’s Symphony No. 2, the symphony-in-progress he carried in his suitcase as he escaped Nazi Berlin for exile in Paris in March 1933. The chapter explores its 1934 premiere in Amsterdam, where critics took issue with both the popular-sounding music and with Weill himself – neither seeming suitable for the symphonic genre – to introduce the book’s central concerns: how, at this uncertain and turbulent political moment, the specific cultural anxieties that emerge around symphonies can generate insights into how people thought about both subjectivity and about political and aesthetic notions of space. If previous scholarship on the genre has largely been wedded to nation-states and grand political narratives, this chapter instead argues for a transnational approach and lays out the symphonic genre’s long history of entanglement with Germanic philosophies of subjectivity and space, from E. T. A. Hoffmann to Paul Bekker.
The symphony has long been entangled with ideas of self and value. Though standard historical accounts suggest that composers' interest in the symphony was almost extinguished in the early 1930s, this book makes plain the genre's continued cultural dominance, and argues that the symphony can illuminate issues around space/geography, race, and postcolonialism in Germany, France, Mexico, and the United States. Focusing on a number of symphonies composed or premiered in 1933, this book recreates some of the cultural and political landscapes of an uncertain historical moment-a year when Hitler took power in Germany, and the Great Depression reached its peak in the United States. Interwar Symphonies and the Imagination asks what North American and European symphonies from the early 1930s can tell us about how people imagined selfhood during a period of international insecurity and political upheaval, of expansionist and colonial fantasies, scientised racism, and emergent fascism.
Alighting briefly once again on Weill’s Symphony No. 2 from the book’s opening, and then turning to consider Florence Price’s Symphony in E minor as a closing case study, Chapter 6 pivots between the early 1930s and the present day to consider the legacies and twentieth-century historiography of the symphonies in the book – their absences and recoveries – and the remarkable persistence of the symphonic genre in the mechanisms of how cultural and political agency is conferred to the present day. The poor reception of Weill’s New York premiere in 1934 comes under examination in light of the discussion in the intervening chapters, raising the question of why, for that time and place, Weill was the wrong kind of symphonist. Then, the chapter addresses the contemporary revival of Price’s symphony in the early 2020s, and it suggests the capacity of symphonies from the tumultuous years around 1933 to invigorate a differently dynamic symphonic landscape and a differently dynamic landscape of selfhood.