NINETEENTH CENTURY BACKGROUND
Richard Wagner stands before my eyes suffering and great as that nineteenth century whose complete expression he is.
Most of the people who heard the first performances of Pelléas et Mélisande ( 1902), Pierrot Lunaire ( 1912), and Le Sacre du Printemps ( 1913) believed they were witnessing a brutal assault on musical sensitivity, intelligence, and morality. It seemed as if the continuum of music history had been broken and that the rich beauties of the past had been replaced by willful and capricious ugliness. Impressed by what they considered a complete change in style, critics spoke of neue Musik, new music, just as their predecessors of 1600 and 1300, also times of style change, had spoken of nuove musiche and ars nova.
Now that the midpoint of the twentieth century has passed we hear this music with different ears. What seemed to be unplanned cacophony we now accept without a shudder, and the various idioms which were so shocking have been analyzed and systematized in textbooks. Furthermore, we now realize that the continuum of history was not