The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music

By Jim Samson | Go to book overview

6
Music and the poetic
JULIAN RUSHTON

A traditional assumption of historiography that musical trends followed those of the other arts after a lapse of time is hard to sustain with the burgeoning of Romanticism, a movement which among other things embraced the emerging category of the 'poetic'. Pointers to Romanticism in literature of the 1770s isolate phenomena within a predominantly Classicistic culture; Goethe could write an Iphigenia auf Tauris as well as Faust. An early and important identification of the musically Romantic by the composer, jurist and man of letters E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) extended the definition back to include the instrumental music of Haydn and Mozart. The 'poetic' in music reflects a tendency to artistic synthesis outside the self-evidently synthetic field of theatre music: permeation of an artistic form by the values of another, or indeed by ideas normally considered beyond the realm of art, is traceable in song and in certain genres of instrumental music, but there is no need to assume that it alone constitutes the phenomenon of Romanticism, and its development is continuous with eighteenth-century opera, song and programme music.

Writing about Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in 1810, Hoffmann argued that purely instrumental music, without programme or literary allusion, is quintessentially Romantic; he resisted pointing to developments in French opera, even before the Revolution, as precursors of Weber's operas or, indeed, his own.

When music is spoken of as an independent art the term can properly apply only to instrumental music, which scorns all aid, all admixture of other arts – and gives pure expression to its own peculiar artistic nature. It is the most Romantic of all arts – one might almost say the only one that is purely Romantic. … Music reveals to man an unknown realm, a world quite separate from the outer sensual world surrounding him, a world in which he leaves behind all feelings circumscribed by intellect in order to embrace the inexpressible.1

Hoffmann must be assumed to mean, not inexpressible, but inexpressible other than through music; he was not condemning music to expressive impotence. Although Hoffmann's view of musical purity had notable offspring, his

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1
E. T. A. Hoffmann, AMZ, 12 (4 and 11 July 1810), cols. 630–42, 652–9; translated in David Charlton (ed.), E. T. A. Hoffmann's Musical Writings (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 234–51, at p. 236.

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The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Notes on Contributors ix
  • Editor's Preface xiii
  • Part One - 1800–1850 1
  • 1 - The Musical Work and Nineteenth-Century History 3
  • Bibliography *
  • 2 - Music and the Rise of Aesthetics 29
  • Bibliography *
  • 3 - The Profession of Music 55
  • Bibliography 85
  • 4 - The Opera Industry 87
  • Bibliography *
  • 5 - The Construction of Beethoven 118
  • Bibliography *
  • 6 - Music and the Poetic 151
  • Bibliography *
  • 7 - The Invention of Tradition 178
  • Bibliography *
  • 8 - Choral Music 213
  • Bibliography *
  • 9 - The Consumption of Music 237
  • Bibliography 258
  • 10 - The Great Composer 259
  • Bibliography 283
  • Part Two - 1850–1900 285
  • 11 - Progress, Modernity and the Concept of an Avant-Garde 287
  • Bibliography *
  • 12 - Music as Ideal: the Aesthetics of Autonomy 318
  • Bibliography *
  • 13 - The Structures of Musical Life 343
  • Bibliography *
  • 14 - Opera and Music Drama 371
  • Bibliography *
  • 15 - Beethoven Reception: the Symphonic Tradition 424
  • Bibliography *
  • 16 - Words and Music in Germany and France 460
  • Bibliography *
  • 17 - Chamber Music and Piano 500
  • Bibliography *
  • 18 - Choral Culture and the Regeneration of the Organ 522
  • Bibliography *
  • 19 - Music and Social Class 544
  • Bibliography *
  • 20 - Nations and Nationalism 568
  • Bibliography *
  • 21 - Styles and Languages Around the Turn of the Century 601
  • Bibliography 620
  • Chronology 621
  • Institutions 659
  • Personalia 689
  • Index 747
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