Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

Beethoven Papers Read at the 1989 AMS, SMT Meeting

Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

Beethoven Papers Read at the 1989 AMS, SMT Meeting

Article excerpt

Eight stimulating papers and responses related to Beethoven's biography and music were given at the joint annual meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory in Austin, Texas on October 26-29.

Michael Beckerman (Washington University) spoke on "The changing denizens of Arcady: Nationalism and the pastoral in 19thcentury music." There he argued that the notion of the "pastoral" in music, art, or literature "invariably implies an eternal and unchanging vision of nature, that the implicit inhabitants of this world are a-temporal," and that "before the second decade of the 19th century most musicopastoral inhabitants (the shepherds and rustics of Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Beethoven) were also a-geographic, that is to say, they inhabited a world of peasantdom, which may have been just about anywhere. Yet beginning in the early decades of the 19th century, and picking up steam after 1848, many composers made conscious efforts to create a kind of pastoral which was nationally specific." Thereby giving further evidence of Beethoven's close ties to the eighteenth century, Beckerman went on to explore "the connection between the characteristics of the pastoral and the symbolic choices made by composers involved in the attempt to create 'national music.'"

"Music and spirit: A .B. Marx's New Age of Criticism " was the topic of an important study on the history of music criticism by Scott Burnham of Princeton University. A .B. Marx was one of the most important critics of the early nineteenth century and figures prominently in the reception of Beethoven's music. Burnham chronicled that, "As part of an ongoing attack against what he perceived to be the entrenched conservatism of the popular Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Marx proclaimed that the spiritual demands of contemporary music called for a new age of criticism. His program for music criticism incorporates some of the prevailing insights of the Romantic and Idealist schools in Germany: art as a revelation of spirit, divinatory hermeneutics, the organic theory of art, and a teleological attitude toward history. The central experience that connects all these strands in Marx's aesthetic thought is his confrontation with the music of Beethoven."

Tia DeNora (University of Wales, Cardiff), speaking self-admittedly as an "outsider to musicology," focussed her attention as a sociologist on the topic, "Toward a sociology of Beethoven's success during his first decade in Vienna." DeNora believes that Beethoven scholars have elided some of the critical sociological aspects of Beethoven's success in Vienna in the 1790s, and proposed an interesting and challenging set of hypotheses that attempted to explain Beethoven's success in terms of his position in Bonn as an employee of an aristocrat, his transfer from Bonn to a prominent circle of Viennese aristocrats, and their creation of an environment especially designed to ensure his success. She characterized Beethoven during this period as a "connoisseur's musician," and contrasted his works with those of Dussek, which were written for a London audience in a very popular style. In the discussion period, it was pointed out that Beethoven had also composed a number of works in a consciously popular style (including the many sets of variations on popular tunes), but in general DeNora's paper was felt to be a useful expansion of our understanding of Beethoven's early success in Vienna.

Robert Freeman, University of California at Santa Barbara, reported on his important discovery of "New sources for Beethoven's piano concerto cadenzas from MeIk Abbey." Among these is a previously unknown cadenza for the Fortepiano Concerto No. 3, Opus 37. Freeman traced the connections between the abbey and Vienna, examining the copyist, his connections to Beethoven's circle in Vienna, and possible routes of transmission from Vienna to the abbey. He also analyzed the cadenza on stylistic grounds to see if it might be by Beethoven, carefully considering its length, range, design, use of dynamic markings, ornamental figures, keys, chromatic passages, and "overdrawn" points of articulation. …

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