Musical Performance in the Times of Mozart and Beethoven: The Lost Tradition in Music, Part II

By Fritz Rothschild | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
BEETHOVEN'S LAST CREATIVE PERIOD AND ITS IMPACT UPON THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL

Philip Spitta, in his Ein Lebensbild Robert Schumanns, 1882 (p. 22), quotes the following passage from an essay by Schumann:

" Leaning, consciously or unconsciously, on the basis of Beethoven's and Schubert's romanticism, there is a school which, though not yet fully developed, has the elements of becoming a notable epoch in the history of art. Its destiny seems to be to unfetter an age still chained with a thousand rings to the preceding century."

Though Schumann did not mention any specific traits of romantic music, his remark reveals a vision and intuition which are lacking in most definitions of romantic and classical music. Most descriptions are confined to generalizations, making no distinction between the characteristics of each style and their interpretation. Grove, to mention a popular source, is rather vague on this subject, saying (Vol. II, pp. 334-5, art. "Classical"):

"[Classical is] a term which in music has much the same signification as it has in literature. It is used of works which have held their place as masterpieces in general estimation for a considerable time, and--more loosely--of new works which are generally considered to be of the same type and style. Hence the name has come to be especially applied to works in the forms which were adopted by the great masters of the latter part of the 18th century, such as instrumental works in the sonata form and operas constructed after the received traditions; and in this sense the term was used as the opposite of 'romantic', in the controversy between the musicians who wished to retain the old forms, and those, like Schumann, who wished music to be developed in forms which should be more the free inspiration of the composer, and less restricted in their systematic development."

(Vol. VII, p. 215, art. "Romantic"):

"Romantic, an adjective used, rather loosely, as the antithesis of 'classical'. Both terms were taken from literature, and brought into musical aesthetics during the early years of the 19th century, and have remained in use as convenient labels for certain kinds of

-78-

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