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Our kingdom is not of this world, say the musicians, for where do we find in nature, like the painter or the sculptor, the prototype of our art? Sound dwells everywhere, but the sounds-that is, the melodies-that speak the higher language of the spirit kingdom reside in the human heart alone.
This passage could head all E.T.A. Hoffmann's writings on music. In story, novella, essay, and review he championed the unique status of his beloved art. Music alone, claimed Hoffmann, slipped the shackles of imitation that bound the other arts to nature, the world of the senses. Such abstraction, however, did not render music mute. The most purely spiritual art, music soared above physical reality to express a realm of metaphysical experience. As the allusion to John's gospel indicates, Hoffmann credited music with religious revelation-and the composer with a messianic calling. Hoffmann did not labor in vain. Perhaps more than any other writer he helped propagate the doctrine of "absolute music," an idea that still holds sway among critics and audiences.
Nowhere did Hoffmann more eloquently proclaim this gospel than in his review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In this landmark of Beethoven reception, published in 1810 in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Hoffmann set a new standard for musical criticism, supporting the loftiest philosophical assertions with the keenest analytical precision. His exordium hails Beethoven as the high priest of a purified instrumental music, a music that "opens to mankind an unknown kingdom, a world that has nothing in common with the outer sensory world." And yet, Hoffmann argued, let no one mistake this abstraction for undisciplined frenzy, the "product of a genius who, unconcerned with form and the selection of thoughts, gave himself over to his passion and the momentary impulses of his powers of imagination." Through a detailed analysis Hoffmann sought to show that, despite his eccentricities, Beethoven was "no less qualified, in regards to reflection [Besonnenheit], to stand beside Haydn and Mozart." The review thus purports to demonstrate the astounding claim of Kreisleriana: that music can detach itself utterly from physical reality, yet still communicate intelligibly about the spiritual realm.
A paradox lurks at the heart of Hoffmann's argument. In order to discuss music at all, he had to use language, a sign system rooted in the natural, sensory world. Hoffmann himself was acutely aware of the chasm between music and language. As he contended in "Beethovens Instrumentalmusik" (Kreisleriana), music conveyed "a higher expression than mere words, fit only for confined, earthly pleasure, can signify." He begins the symphony review by confessing that "he is overwhelmed by the object of which he should speak," and he entreats the reader not to "begrudge it him if, overstepping the bounds of common judgments, he strives to contain in words what that composition has so profoundly stirred within his soul" (p. 34). As a Romantic idealist, Hoffmann preached the total separation of music and language; as a working music critic, he had to bridge the abyss. Indeed, Hoffmann's doctrine of absolute music did not prevent him from producing an imposing bulk of literature devoted precisely to illuminating the inner nature of music. He wanted it both ways, declaring the transcendence of music while dissecting its content.
This contradiction caused a strain in Hoffmann's criticism that has not gone unnoticed. Robin Wallace pointed to a rigidity in the Fifth Symphony review, remarking that "everything works together to demonstrate the central thesis, which is driven home with an almost irrational consistency." Peter Schnaus has raised further doubts about Hoffmann's critical acuity by tracing much of his language to a well-worn journalistic vocabulary. Most troubling is the Fifth Symphony itself, which stubbornly resists repatriation in Hoffmann's Geisterreich. This symphony, which critics from A.B. Marx to Scott Burnham have heard as the epitome of heroic, humanistic striving, would seem to provide one of the least convincing examples of a music that "has nothing in common with the outer sensory world." Certain passages do evoke a spiritual, or at least ghostly, ambiance-the mysterious modulations in the second movement, the withered recapitulation of the scherzo, or the muffled drum beats before the finale. Offsetting these eerie moments, however, is the rampant kinesthetic appeal of the symphony, felt in the motivic propulsion of the first movement, the ubiquitous marches (that invade even the triple-time slow movement and scherzo), and the triumphant C-major finale, with its overtones of the French Revolutionary éclat triomphale. Many musical works do match Hoffmann's ideal of an abstract, purely spiritual music (including some by Beethoven); but the Fifth Symphony hardly springs to mind.
A fissure thus opens in Hoffmann's doctrine of the musical absolute. If, as he claimed, music and language inhabit wholly separate realms, then his writing about music must be stained with extramusical meanings, including perhaps political meanings. A scrutiny of Hoffmann's critical language reveals that what he said (and left unsaid) about the Fifth Symphony indeed owes much to the political situation around 1810. Yet this study aspires to more than mere deconstruction. For Hoffmann's criticism contains a serendipitous wisdom, even where his Romantic aesthetic strains most noticeably against the heroic text. Indeed, it is precisely through such disjunctures that we can learn the most about Beethoven's political thought-if not in the Fifth Symphony, then in works yet to come.
"My kingdom is not of this world." The words of Christ to Pontius Pilate, his imperial Roman captor, were painfully relevant in 1813. For Hoffmann, as for any Prussian citizen, the dominating historical fact was the subjection of his land to Napoleon. Although war had smoldered continuously in Europe since the French Revolution, Prussia had enjoyed eleven years of peace following the 1795 Treaty of Basel. In 1806 Prussia rashly took up arms against Napoleon and, after disastrous defeats at Jena and Auerstedt, lost half its population and territory in the reconstitution of the dissolved Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon occupied the country, installed French agents and officials, and levied enormous war reparations, further crippling the economy. With the traditional boundaries of their land liquidated by a foreign power and their leaders vacillating between resistance and collaboration, Prussian subjects might well have wondered if they possessed a kingdom of this world.
No disinterested bystander, Hoffmann experienced the direct impact of the French occupation. Ousted from his government post in 1806 for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to Napoleon, Hoffmann found himself in severe financial straits, forced to hawk trivial compositions and give music lessons. The lean conditions of the war years also account for his work as a music critic. His short (and rather unsuccessful) stint as a full-time musician-from 1806 until 1814, when he resumed judicial work-exactly coincides with the Napoleonic occupation and so-called Befreiungskriege, or Wars of Liberation.
Hoffmann's early Ritter Gluck (1809) registers the politicized mood of Napoleonic Prussia. The fantastic tale begins with this description of occupied Berlin: "Soon all the places are occupied at Klaus and Weber; the carrot coffee steams, one argues about king and peace ... about the closed commercial state and bad Groschen." Benedikt Koehler has unpacked the constellation of political codes: "Mohrrüben-Kaffee" was the ersatz beverage forced upon the Berliners by Napoleon's blockade, the Continental System; the argument "über König und Frieden" refers to the debate between nationalist proponents of an uprising against Napoleon and the royal cabinet, which was steering a course of accommodation with France; the "geschlossener Handelsstaat" was the protosocialist treatise of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who had emerged as an outspoken nationalist with his Reden an die deutsche Nation (Addresses to the German Nation), delivered in Berlin the previous year; and "schlechte Groschen" alludes to the inflationary economy.
In 1813, after Prussia resumed the war against France, Hoffmann began to voice openly patriotic sentiments. His grisly fantasy Die Vision auf dem Schlachtfeld bei Dresden, inspired by his first-hand experience of the famous battle, savagely attacks Napoleon and ends with a paean to "the resplendent heroes, the sons of the gods, [Czar] Alexander and Friedrich Wilhelm." (The allied victory at Dresden also inspired a joyful entry in his journal: "Freedom!-Freedom!-Freedom! My dearest hopes are fulfilled, and the steadfast faith to which I clung through the darkest times is proven true.") Two years later, after hearing of Napoleon's escape from Elba, Hoffman penned the tale Der Dei von Elba in Paris, an apotheosis of German liberation that ends on a note of pious nationalism: "We have built a mighty fortress; the banner of the fatherland waves high, terrorizing the cunning enemy. However much the dark powers may enter into our life, we, who are born to pious trust and firm faith, shall banish the fearsome shadows."
More intriguing than these propaganda pieces are the patriotic themes that dot Hoffmann's writings about music. In the Fifth Symphony review he ridicules Louis Jadin's Bataille des trois empereurs, a characteristic symphony written to celebrate Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz; political and aesthetic polemics here unite, as Hoffmann simultaneously condemns French imperialism and mimesis. The "Höchst zerstreute Gedanken" of Kreisleriana contains even more pointed barbs. A panegyric to Gluck ends with a call to arms that clearly extends beyond the operatic dispute with the Piccinists: "Be of good cheer, you unrecognized ones, you who are bowed down beneath the frivolity and injustice of the spirit of the age; you are assured of certain victory, and it is eternal, since your exhausting struggle was but fleeting." The four italicized words are "Euch," "gewisser," "der," and "Kampf." David Charlton has suggested that this acrostic may encode a patriotic message; one solution that might be hazarded is "Erhalte Gott der König," or "God save the King." Hoffmann has again fused aesthetics and politics in the figure of Gluck, who championed solid Germanic values in the decadent French capital. This sort of double entendre appears still more clearly in Hoffmann's vicious review of Boïeldieu's Nouveau seigneur (1814), which concludes with
the heartfelt wish that the paltry genre of operetta, with its cloying sweetness, with its insipid buffoonery, just as it came from the French stage to ours, as something wholly uncongenial to our spirit, to our view of music, might, together with the blind reverence-admittedly extorted sword in hand-for everything else that comes from there, disappear as soon as possible.
Hoffmann spelled out the connection between artistic and political aims in his operatic manifesto Der Dichter und der Komponist (1813). The union of the operatic arts, symbolized by the poet Ferdinand and the composer Ludwig, intertwines with the ideal of patriotic unity:
Ferdinand pressed his friend to him. The latter took up his full glass: "Eternally united in a higher cause through life and death!" "Eternally united in a higher cause through life and death!" repeated Ferdinand, and in a few minutes his impetuous steed was carrying him into the host that, rejoicing in their wild lust for battle, drove toward the enemy.
Hoffmann's musical writings and activities suggest not only patriotic fervor, but the spirit of the reform movement that sprang up in Prussia during the Napoleonic occupation as well. Following the 1806 debacle, a faction among Friedrich Wilhelm II's ministers sought to infuse new ideas and organization into every aspect of Prussian national life. Spearheading the movement was Baron Stein, who seized on the wartime crisis to realize his longstanding plans for modernization. After Napoleon exiled Stein in 1808 for subversion, leadership fell to the less effective Count Hardenberg, under whom the reform movement fizzled out, capitulating to entrenched aristocratic interests. The reformers recognized that Prussia could survive only by broadening political involvement in the French manner. The collapse of the celebrated Prussian army had revealed the rot in the absolutist state and the contrasting power of the French nation aux armes. Stein believed that victory against Napoleon depended on rousing Prussia to a similar levée en masse, which meant revamping the paternalistic Obrigkeitsstaat. As Walter Simon put it, Stein's "formula for the salvation of Prussia penetrated into all departments of public life: it was no less than the restoration and mobilization of the nation's resources." Generals Scharnhorst, Boyen, and Gneisenau set about restructuring the army, working for universal conscription, limits on corporal punishment, and the establishment of a Landsturm or citizen militia. Albrecht Thaer labored to replace the feudal agricultural system with more productive capitalist methods imported from England. Stein's Emancipation Edict of 1807 freed the peasants and opened land ownership to all classes, and under Wilhelm von Humboldt national education underwent a revolution, culminating in the establishment of the University of Berlin in 1810. Less successfully, Hardenberg worked to introduce a constitution and representative branch into the monarchy.
Close contacts link Hoffmann to this optimistic movement. His best friend, Theodor von Hippel, was a prominent reformer and the author of Friedrich Wilhelm's wartime appeal "An mein Volk." Hippel was the model for the poet-warrior Ferdinand in Der Dichter und der Komponist, whose setting was inspired by a chance meeting between the two friends in Dresden. During the war years Hippel served as counselor to Hardenberg, who reappointed Hoffmann to the Berlin judiciary in 1814 and made him an honored guest at his home after the war. It is not certain how well Hoffmann knew Stein, but the baron personally extended him financial assistance in 1807 after Hoffmann was ousted from his judicial post. While languishing in Berlin during 1807-8, Hoffmann also met Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher, two of the most outspoken literary proponents of national reform.
The reforming spirit animates every sphere of Hoffmann's activity during the Napoleonic years. As director of the Bamberg Court Theater and, later, the Dresden Seconda Opera Troupe, he fought for an organic conception of opera uniting music, drama, and spectacle. This proto-Wagnerian crusade took theoretical form in Der Dichter und der Komponist and "Der vollkommene Maschinist" (Kreisleriana) and found practical expression in Undine (1816), in which he answered his own call for a German Romantic opera. Hoffmann also campaigned to reform church music, a project culminating, on the one hand, in the nine-voiced Miserere of 1809 and, on the other, in the essay "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik" (1814). In this essay Hoffmann forayed into the realm of practical governmental reform when he prescribed for the bourgeois choral societies that, "should these societies prove to be a genuine influence on church music, they must not remain private enterprises, but rather should be directed and supported in religious form by the state."
With this proposal, Hoffmann joined in the foremost cultural demand of the reform movement, education. Bildung, the neohumanistic ideal of inner formation, beckoned to the reformers as a potent source of national strength. As Rudolf Vierhaus explained,
The political and spiritual excitement of the Napoleonic age had created a propitious situation for essential educational reforms, but also for the notion that the resurgence of Germany, her national rejuvenation and greater unity, the overthrow of absolutism, and the "participation" of the people in the state could be neither solely nor decisively effected politically, but must rather be a matter of the education and Bildung of all.... With powerful optimism, numerous philosophers, pastors, government officials, teachers, political writers, and journalists busied themselves with special and general problems of Bildung.
Excerpted from Beethoven after Napoleon by Stephen Rumph Copyright © 2004 by Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
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PART ONE. THE STRUCTURE OF MEALS IN THE CLASSICAL AGE
1. Composition of the Classical Meal
3. Entrées and Entremets
4. Composition of Meatless Meals
PART TWO. FOURTEENTH TO TWENTIETH CENTURIES: VARIATIONS IN THE SEQUENCE OF COURSES IN FRANCE
5. French Meals in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
6. Sixteenth-Century Overview
7. Classical Order in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
8. Innovations from the Revolution to World War I
9. Hidden Changes in the Twentieth Century
PART THREE. OTHER COUNTRIES, OTHER SEQUENCES
10. English Menu Sequences
11. Polish Banquets in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries
A. Additional Material for Part Three
B. Dietetics and Meal Sequences
C. The Cuisine of the Renaissance
D. Additional Printed Sources