Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945

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Overview

Can music be political? Germans have long claimed the symphony as a pillar of their modern national culture. By 1900, the critical discourse on music, particularly symphonies, rose to such prominence as to command front-page news. With the embrace of the Great War, the humiliation of defeat, and the ensuing economic turmoil, music evolved from the most abstract to the most political of the arts. Even Goebbels saw the symphony as a tool of propaganda. More than composers or musicians, critics were responsible for this politicization of music, aspiring to change how music was heard and understood. Once hailed as a source of individual heroism, the symphony came to serve a communal vision.

Karen Painter examines the politicization of musical listening in Germany and Austria, showing how nationalism, anti-Semitism, liberalism, and socialism profoundly affected the experience of serious music. Her analysis draws on a vast collection of writings on the symphony, particularly those of Mahler and Bruckner, to offer compelling evidence that music can and did serve ideological ends. She traces changes in critical discourse that reflected but also contributed to the historical conditions of the fin de siècle, World War I, and the Nazi regime.

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Editorial Reviews

Commentary

Familiar questions are addressed to freshly illuminating effect in Karen Painter's Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945, one of the first books in English to take a wider historical view of the phenomenon of the politicization of classical music in Nazi Germany.
— Terry Teachout

Commentary - Terry Teachout
Familiar questions are addressed to freshly illuminating effect in Karen Painter's Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945, one of the first books in English to take a wider historical view of the phenomenon of the politicization of classical music in Nazi Germany.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674026612
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2008
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Painter is Associate Professor at the School of Music, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: Tradition in a Modern Age: Bruckner and Mahler at the Fin de Siècle

1. Symphonic Idealism in Crisis

2. Symphonic Conventions of a World Past

3. Sensuality and Redemption

Part II: The Politics of Tradition: Mahler and Bruckner, 1914-1933

4. Mahler's Progressive Legacy and the Aestheticization of Violence

5. Bruckner's Nationalist Legacy and the Aestheticization of Space

Part III: Symphonic Traditions under National Socialism

6. Hindemith's Mathis der Maler Symphony and Symphony Ambitions under National Socialism

7. Symphonic Defeat

Notes

Index

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