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German Modernism

German Modernism: Music and the Arts

Walter Frisch
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    German Modernism
    Book Description:

    In this pioneering, erudite study of a pivotal era in the arts, Walter Frisch examines music and its relationship to early modernism in the Austro-German sphere. Seeking to explore the period on its own terms, Frisch questions the common assumption that works created from the later 1870s through World War I were transitional between late romanticism and high modernism. Drawing on a wide range of examples across different media, he establishes a cultural and intellectual context for late Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Arnold Schoenberg, as well as their less familiar contemporaries Eugen d'Albert, Hans Pfitzner, Max Reger, Max von Schillings, and Franz Schreker. Frisch explores "ambivalent" modernism in the last quarter of the nineteenth century as reflected in the attitudes of, and relationship between, Nietzsche and Wagner. He goes on to examine how naturalism, the first self-conscious movement of German modernism, intersected with musical values and practices of the day. He proposes convergences between music and the visual arts in the works of Brahms, Max Klinger, Schoenberg, and Kandinsky. Frisch also explains how, near the turn of the century, composers drew inspiration and techniques from music of the past—the Renaissance, Bach, Mozart, and Wagner. Finally, he demonstrates how irony became a key strategy in the novels and novellas of Thomas Mann, the symphonies of Mahler, and the operas of Strauss and Hofmannsthal.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94080-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    THIS BOOK IS A STUDY of relationships between concert or “Classical” music and early cultures of modernism in German-speaking centers. My focus is on the years between 1880 and 1920, a period extending roughly between the later years and death of Richard Wagner (1883), the most influential figure in any of the arts at the time, and the end ofWorld War I (1918), which marked a major turning point in European culture.

    Although the later phase of German modernism, during the Weimar Republic and the years leading up to World War II, has received considerable attention as a coherent or...

  5. ONE Ambivalent Modernism: Perspectives from the 1870s and 1880s
    (pp. 7-35)

    UNTIL 1871 THERE WAS NO coherent political entity called Germany, but rather a loose “German Confederation” of thirty-eight states that had been created in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna. The two largest and strongest parts of the Confederation were Austria and Prussia, who dominated the political and cultural stage for most of the century and were frequently in conflict. When he was appointed prime minister of Prussia in 1862, Bismarck hoped to exclude Austria from the Confederation and ensure Prussian dominance; this was the so-calledkleindeutschvision of German unity. War ensued between Austria and Prussia, and Prussia’s victory...

  6. TWO German Naturalism
    (pp. 36-87)

    EVEN AS THE SOUNDS OF PARSIFAL, at once modern and regressive, echoed through the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1882, newer trends were on the rise in Germany. Naturalism was the first self-conscious, programmatic movement of German modernism. It had its beginnings around 1880, primarily in two urban centers, Berlin and Munich, and began to decline by the mid-1890s. German naturalism drew much of its inspiration from France, specifically from the realism of Courbet, Flaubert, and Zola. Ibsen also became an influential figure. Although music was not central to the program of the German naturalists, their concerns overlapped with those of musicians...

  7. THREE Convergences: Music and the Visual Arts
    (pp. 88-137)

    AS WE HAVE SEEN, the extent to which music was or could be naturalistic occupied writers, thinkers, and composers in the years around 1900. In the end, many realized that music and naturalism were perhaps not well suited for each other, largely because of the prevailing idea—very hard to shake off, at least in German-speaking realms—that music was in essence abstract, absolute, nonreferential, metaphysical, and thus ultimately not connected with the “real world.” These qualities had been attributed to music since the rise of German idealist philosophy in the late eighteenth century and were reinforced by the early...

  8. FOUR Bach, Regeneration, and Historicist Modernism
    (pp. 138-185)

    AS SUGGESTED IN THE LAST CHAPTER, the technical and expressive features of the music by Schoenberg played at the January 2, 1911, concert, were “convergent” with many aspects of Kandinsky’s paintings. However much they appealed to Kandinsky and his circle, the intense polyphony, asymmetrical phrase structures, and dissonant chords made the works hard for the general public in Austria and Germany to swallow. As is well known, Schoenberg’s mature compositions provoked hostility from audiences and critics. The premieres of the First Quartet and First Chamber Symphony in February 1907 were hissed. The first performance of the Second Quartet in December...

  9. FIVE Ironic Germans
    (pp. 186-213)

    At the end of chapter 4, I introduced the term “irony” to characterize, at least in part, Mahler’s distanced but affectionately humorous relationship to Bach in the finale of the Fifth Symphony. Irony becomes a key strategy for a number of Austro-German modernists in the years around 1900, especially in their attitude to music of the remote or immediate past. I shall return to Mahler at the end of this chapter, but to explore and clarify the concept of irony shall first confront the premier ironist of the era, Thomas Mann. In a well-known study of 1958 calledThe Ironic...

  10. SIX “Dancing in Chains”: Strauss, Hofmannsthal, Pfitzner, and Their Musical Pasts
    (pp. 214-256)

    WE RECALL THAT INHuman, All Too HumanNietzsche called for a new classicism in which creative artists would, like the ancient Greeks, impose fetters upon themselves—“make things look difficult”—at the same time as giving the illusion of spontaneity and lack of effort. He called this practice “dancing in chains.” Composers around 1900, as we have seen, readily put themselves in historical fetters. Reger, Busoni, and Mahler took on Bachian chains, for different reasons, in different ways, and to very different effects. In each case, however, the relationship to the musical past forms a strong part of their...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 257-292)
    (pp. 293-308)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 309-322)