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Moral Fire

Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle

Joseph Horowitz
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Moral Fire
    Book Description:

    Joseph Horowitz writes in Moral Fire: “If the Met’s screaming Wagnerites standing on chairs (in the 1890s) are unthinkable today, it is partly because we mistrust high feeling. Our children avidly specialize in vicarious forms of electronic interpersonal diversion. Our laptops and televisions ensnare us in a surrogate world that shuns all but facile passions; only Jon Stewart and Bill Maher share moments of moral outrage disguised as comedy.” Arguing that the past can prove instructive and inspirational, Horowitz revisits four astonishing personalities—Henry Higginson, Laura Langford, Henry Krehbiel and Charles Ives—whose missionary work in the realm of culture signaled a belief in the fundamental decency of civilized human nature, in the universality of moral values, and in progress toward a kingdom of peace and love.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95186-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xv)

    Fully twenty years ago, I decided that the most dynamic decade for classical music in the United States was the 1890s—a finding that contradicted conventional wisdom both about American music and about the “Gilded Age.” The latter term, roughly designating the period between the Civil War and 1900, originates with Mark Twain’s first novel, co-written with Charles Dudley Warner in 1873:The Gilded Age: A Tale of To-Day. Its genesis was a conversation in which the two writers expressed discontent with the state of American fiction. They also shared their discontent with the state of American democracy. The result...

  5. Prologue: Screaming Wagnerites and America’s Fin de Siècle
    (pp. 1-17)

    Work on the present book, celebrating cultural achievements a century and more ago, coincided with a signature twenty-first-century entertainment: the twenty-ninth Summer Olympic Games, hosted by the People’s Republic of China. The opening ceremonies, on August 8, 2008, were unprecedented in scale: fifteen thousand performers (including exactly 2,008 drummers) riveted an outdoor audience of ninety-one thousand, and millions more on television the world over. The four-hour production, conceived by the film director Zhang Yimou, reportedly cost $300 million—more than ten times what Athens had spent on its opening ceremonies four years previous. Defying gravity, athletes eight months in training...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Henry Higginson: High Culture, High Finance, and Useful Citizenship
    (pp. 19-73)

    Dearest Jim,—

    We are in for the fight at last and will carry it thro’ like men. . . . Never in my whole life have I seen anything approaching in the slightest degree to the excitement and the enthusiasm of the past week. Everything excepting the war is forgotten, business is suspended, the streets are filled with people, drilling is seen on all sides and at all times. Our Massachusetts troops were poured into Boston within 12 to 24 hours after the command was issued from here, and were the first to go on and the first to shed...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Henry Krehbiel: The German-American Transaction
    (pp. 75-123)

    The grandest single exercise in American cultural inventory was the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. No facet of the fair excited more attention than the mile-long Midway Plaisance, festooned on either side with exotic places of amusement and edification in the guise of ethnic villages: mosques and pagodas, huts of bark and straw, South Sea cabins peopled by donkey boys, camel drivers, dancing girls. The Midway’s entrepreneurial mastermind was twenty-one-year-old Sol Bloom, whose enthusiasms included Bedouin acrobats and Arabian sword-swallowers. Its scholarly overseers included Otis T. Mason of the Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology, who called it “one vast anthropological...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Laura Holloway Langford: Servitude, Disquiet, and “The History of Womankind”
    (pp. 125-171)

    According to the fifteen-page prospectus for the Seidl Society’s 1894 Brighton Beach season, issued June 2, there would once again be fourteen concerts weekly—two a day—at Coney Island’s Brighton Beach resort. Anton Seidl would again conduct an orchestra so seasoned that its repertoire included “over five hundred different works, by nearly one hundred composers.” The season would begin “with a characteristically beautiful program” on June 30 and conclude, ten weeks later, on September 3. A Beethoven symphony would be featured every Friday night for eight weeks running (the Ninth Symphony being omitted). New works by Goldmark, Godard, Grieg,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Charles Ives: Gentility and Rebellion
    (pp. 173-220)

    Hartford’s Reverend Joseph Twichell was gregarious, ebullient, and robustly handsome. The congregants at his fashionable Asylum Hill church included Charles Dudley Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mark Twain. Twain was also a close personal friend. Six years after arriving at Asylum Hill—“the Church of the Holy Speculators,” Twain called it—Twichell helped to marry Sam and Livy Clemens. He undertook with Clemens a quixotic 1874 walk to Boston (they hitched a ride to the nearest railroad line twenty-eight miles later) and in 1878 cheerfully accompanied him to Europe to participate in the innocent and mock innocent adventures ofA...

  10. Summation: Defining an American Fin de Siècle
    (pp. 221-238)

    In a program note for the Boston Symphony, Philip Hale referenced Henry Krehbiel’s view that with theNew WorldSymphony Dvořák had successfully embarked on an “American school” of composition based in part on “Negro melodies.” Hale continued:

    It was said by some in answer to [Krehbiel’s] statements that, while the negro is undoubtedly fond of music, he is not inherently musical, that this has been observed by all careful observers of the negro in Africa, from Bosman to Sir Richard F. Burton[;] that the American negro, peculiarly mimetic, founded his “folk-songs” on sentimental ballads sung by the white women...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 239-250)
  12. Index
    (pp. 251-264)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)