Unfinished Music

Unfinished Music

by Richard Kramer
     
 

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Unfinished Music draws its inspiration from the riddling aphorism by Walter Benjamin that serves as its epigraph: "the work is the death mask of its conception." The work in its finished, perfected state conceals the enlivening process engaged in its creation. An opening chapter of this book examines some explosive ideas from the mind of J. G. Hamann,

Overview

Unfinished Music draws its inspiration from the riddling aphorism by Walter Benjamin that serves as its epigraph: "the work is the death mask of its conception." The work in its finished, perfected state conceals the enlivening process engaged in its creation. An opening chapter of this book examines some explosive ideas from the mind of J. G. Hamann, eccentric figure of the anti-rationalist Enlightenment, on the place of language at the seat of thought. These ideas are pursued as an entry into the no less radical mind of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose bold idiosyncrasies, like Hamann's, disrupted the discourse of Enlightenment aesthetics. Bach is a central player here, his late music the subject of fresh inquiry. In several chapters on the late music of Beethoven, Bach reappears, now something of a spiritual alter ego in the search for a new voice. The improvisatory as a mode of thought figures prominently here, and then inspires a new hearing of the envisioning of Chaos at the outset of Haydn's Creation, aligned with Herder's efforts to come to an understanding of logos at the origin of thought. The improvisatory is at the heart of a chapter on Beethoven's brazen cadenzas for the Concerto in D minor by Mozart, another ghost in Beethoven's machine.

Music seductively unfinished is the topic of other chapters: on some unstudied late sketches, finally rejected, for a famous quartet movement by Beethoven; on the enigmas set loose in several remarkable Mozart fragments; and on the romanticizing of fragment and its bearing on two important sonatas that Schubert left incomplete. In a final coming to terms with the imponderables of musical intuition, the author returns to Benjamin's epigraph, drawing together his foundational essay on Goethe's Elective Affinities with Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, and with a draft for a famous passage in the andantino of Schubert's Sonata in A (1828). Unfinished Music explores with subtle insight the uneasy relationship between the finished work and the elusive, provocative traces of the profound labors buried in its past. The book will have broad appeal to the community of music scholars, theorists and performers, and to all those for whom music is integral to the history of ideas.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This extraordinary book provides a unitary experience, revealing a deep and special perspective on classical music and style. It should be required reading for anyone studying or interested in 18th-century music."—CHOICE

"Richard Kramer's Unfinished Music is a work of great daring and vast erudition, rich in profundities, and overflowing with striking insights into the deepest levels of musical significance. The range of topics is astonishing—fantasia, cadenza, variation; sketches, fragments, improvisations; narrativity, beauty, late style. Music willingly yields its most closely-held secrets to Kramer's sensitive ear and probing mind."—Maynard Solomon, author of Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination

"Richard Kramer's profound meditations on music from 1770 to 1828 are wonderful reading for all music-lovers who care about Beethoven and Schubert, and indispensable for an understanding of the vital importance of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach for Mozart and Beethoven."—Charles Rosen, author of Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen

"Unfinished Music creates and sustains a distinctive critical discourse. In his quest to recognize the elusive moment of artistic intuition, to be knowingly alive to what cannot be known, Richard Kramer reanimates a profound impulse from the twilight of the Enlightenment. The result is a beautifully heard performance that engages every piece of evidence—philosophical, literary, musical—with the same combination of imaginative address and exacting grasp."—Scott Burnham, Professor of Music, Princeton University

"Richard Kramer's Unfinished Music is a work of great daring and vast erudition, rich in profundities, and overflowing with striking insights into the deepest levels of musical significance. The range of topics is astonishing—fantasia, cadenza, variation; sketches, fragments, improvisations; narrativity, beauty, late style. Music willingly yields its most closely-held secrets to Kramer's sensitive ear and probing mind."—Maynard Solomon, author of Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination

"Richard Kramer's profound meditations on music from 1770 to 1828 are wonderful reading for all music-lovers who care about Beethoven and Schubert, and indispensable for an understanding of the vital importance of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach for Mozart and Beethoven."—Charles Rosen, author of Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen

"Unfinished Music creates and sustains a distinctive critical discourse. In his quest to recognize the elusive moment of artistic intuition, to be knowingly alive to what cannot be known, Richard Kramer reanimates a profound impulse from the twilight of the Enlightenment. The result is a beautifully heard performance that engages every piece of evidence—philosophical, literary, musical—with the same combination of imaginative address and exacting grasp."—Scott Burnham, Professor of Music, Princeton University

"By the concluding page of Unfinished Music, [Kramer] has succeeded in demonstrating that while the work of art may well be the death mask of intuition and conception alike, it also
"masks in these two contradictory senses, concealing, altering, disguising the throe of intuition even as it reveals, limits, sets the work in some formal language that allows of its apprehension" (p. 379). For this, and for many other enlivening insights found throughout this remarkable piece of criticism, we can be grateful." —Dennis F. Mahoney, Journal of the American Musicological Society

"[A] remarkable piece of criticism." —Journal of the American Musicological Society

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199917884
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
05/29/2012
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
422
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Richard Kramer is the author of Distant Cycles: Schubert and the Conceiving of Song, awarded the Kinkeldey prize of the American Musicological Society and an ASCAP-Deems Taylor prize, and of many essays on the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Beethoven and Schubert. Kramer, who teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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