The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music

By Jim Samson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

7
The invention of tradition
JOHN IRVING

An imagined past

Whenever I was in Berlin, I would seldom miss Möser's quartetevenings. For me, such artistic presentations were always the most intelligible forum for appreciating instrumental music, in which one heard four reasonable people conversing, as it were, believed their discourse to be profitable and became acquainted with the individuality of the instruments. Goethes Briefe Band IV: Briefe der Jahre 1821–1832. Textkritisch durchgesehen und mit Anmerkungen versehen von Karl Robert Mandelkow (Hamburg, 1967), no. 1443.1

Goethe's letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter (9 November 1829) is sometimes cited as an idealisation of the Classical string quartet, in which this genre is treated as a musical embodiment of civilised Enlightenment conversation between intellectual peers, the 'thread' of the conversation passing effortlessly through the entire musical ensemble. In other respects Goethe's comment sheds light upon the relationship between early Romantic instrumental music specifically chamber music in this context and its immediate Classical past. The evocation of an ideal mode of Enlightenment conversation suggests a nostalgia for a past, even if that past were nothing but an imagined construction (that is, one of many such possible pasts), in relation to which the early Romantic present might be situated. Although he mentions no specific event, either public or private, nor even a specific repertory, it is clear enough that what Goethe had in mind was one of a series of quartet performances organised in Berlin by Karl Möser, at first informally, as an outgrowth of a tradition of chamber and orchestral concerts he had initiated in 1812, and continued on a more permanent footing from the mid-1820s. Möser's quartet concerts rapidly became an established feature of Berlin musical life in the early nine

____________________
1
Wär[e] ich in Berlin, so würde ich die Möserischen Quartettabende selten versäumen. Dieser Art Exhibitionen waren mir von jeher von der Instrumentalmusik das Verständlichste, man hört vier vernünftige Leute sich untereinander unterhalten, glaubt ihren Diskursen etwas abzugewinnen und die Eigentümlichkeit der Instrumente kennenzulernen.

-178-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 772

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?