Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music

Article excerpt

Kelly, Elaine. Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xiii, 246 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-999809-8 (hardback): $45; 978-0-19-99981D4 (electronic text): $38.48 Kindle edition through Amazon, global.oup.com/academic

This book explores how a society is defined by its culture and its choices on what parts of that culture reach canonical status. In the German Democratic Republic, the distinction between Classical and Romantic music represented the dichotomy between socialist and capitalist ideologies, with Beethoven at the center of the discussion. According to Kelly, "the construct of the heroic Beethoven was heralded as a prototype for the socialist citizen" with the Beethoven symphony, the epitome of the canon in music, representing "the apotheosis of the German self." To support her thesis, she uses five case studies to show how the canon "served as a conduit for wider issues of nation-building, identity, and opposition over the course of the G DR's forty-year existence." Part I centers on the development of the socialist state, with chapters on the role of musicologists in the appropriation of Beethoven as their ideal. The second case study is devoted to the reception ofWagner, a divisive figure whose revolutionary beginnings were embraced but whose appropriations by the Nazis were also ideologically problematic. …

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