The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music

By Jim Samson | Go to book overview
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The structures of musical life

In the sphere of art music, the second half of the nineteenth century saw the consolidation and wider dissemination of many of the structures and institutions which had been set up in Europe during the preceding decades, and which were now developing worldwide and gaining in status. Models for operatic, orchestral, educational, publishing and journalistic institutions provided by the major European centres particularly Paris, Vienna and London became established in the New World to the extent that cities such as Boston and New York emerged as their potential rivals on the increasingly intercontinental stage of middle-class musical life. Such consolidation took various forms: nationalist drive and the breakdown of court culture lay behind the emergence of municipal musical culture in much of what now constitutes the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary; in North America, the 'European' musical traditions of cities such as New York and Boston were initiated by immigrant German musicians and embraced by a wider middle class hungry for cultural status. The pace of consolidation also varied: in France and Britain, for instance, it was leisurely in comparison with the breathless rush from urbanisation to the establishment of Europeanised cultural institutions in a new city such as Los Angeles, in which the developments of a century in Europe took place in just a few decades, starting in the 1880s.1 Nevertheless, the relatively late appearance of now-familiar pillars of musical life in some European cities should not be forgotten: through the entire period under consideration Paris lacked a purpose-built orchestral concert hall and Vienna a permanent civic symphony orchestra. In these areas respectively each city lagged well behind Chicago and Boston, for example.

By way of discussions of urban musical life, repertory and canon, elitism, moral improvement, gender and education, this chapter examines the institutions, practices and perhaps most importantly assumptions which underpinned an increasingly globalised culture in which particular repertories of Western art music were canonised as pinnacles of musical achievement and set

C. P. Smith, 'Inventing Tradition: Symphony and Opera in Progressive-era Los Angeles', in M. Saffle (ed.), Music and Culture in America, 1861–1918 (New York, 1998), pp. 299–321, at p. 300.


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