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History in Mighty Sounds: Musical Constructions of German National Identity, 1848 -1914

History in Mighty Sounds: Musical Constructions of German National Identity, 1848 -1914

Barbara Eichner
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    History in Mighty Sounds: Musical Constructions of German National Identity, 1848 -1914
    Book Description:

    Music played a central role in the self-conception of middle-class Germans between the March Revolution of 1848 and the First World War. Although German music was widely held to be 'universal' and thus apolitical, it participated - like the other arts - in the historicist project of shaping the nation's future by calling on the national heritage. Compositions based on - often heavily mythologised - historical events and heroes, such as the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest or the medieval Emperor Barbarossa, invited individual as well as collective identification and brought alive a past that compared favourably with contemporary conditions. 'History in Mighty Sounds' maps out a varied picture of these 'invented traditions' and the manifold ideas of 'Germanness' to which they gave rise, exemplified through works by familiar composers like Max Bruch or Carl Reinecke as well as their nowadays little-known contemporaries. The whole gamut of musical genres, ranging from pre- and post-Wagnerian opera to popular choruses to symphonic poems, contributes to a novel view of the many ways in which national identities were constructed, shaped and celebrated in and through music. How did artists adapt historical or literary sources to their purpose, how did they negotiate the precarious balance of aesthetic autonomy and political relevance, and how did notions of gender, landscape and religion influence artistic choices? All musical works are placed within their broader historical and biographical contexts, with frequent nods to other arts and popular culture. 'History in Mighty Sounds' will be indispensable reading for anyone interested in nineteenth-century German music, history and nationalism. Barbara Eichner is Senior Lecturer in Musicology at Oxford Brookes University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-034-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Music Examples
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xi)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)

    In 1844, at a time of great expectations, the philosopher and critic Friedrich Theodor Vischer prophesied a new departure for German music:

    I must be very mistaken, or there is another, a new world of sounds left, which is yet to unfurl; music has had a Goethe in Mozart, a Klopstock in Haydn, a Jean Paul in Beethoven, a Tieck in Weber: it shall have its Schiller and Shakespeare, and the German shall yet hear his own, great history surge towards him in the waves of mighty sounds. … The heroic operas of Gluck, his Alceste or Iphigenie, are by...

  8. 1 The Pure Mirror: National Epic as National Opera
    (pp. 41-80)

    If German national identity was in a permanent state of crisis and redefinition throughout the nineteenth century, the same can be said of German national opera. Until Wagner’s music dramas finally – and not without controversy – came to be adopted as the ‘soundtrack’ of the German Empire in the 1870s, the search for an appropriate and recognisable operatic idiom remained an ongoing concern. The two operas discussed in this chapter, Heinrich Dorn’s Die Nibelungen (1854) and Carl Amand Mangold’s Gudrun (1851), made significant and at the time most welcome contributions to the problematic genre by transforming epic poetry from...

  9. 2 Germanic Heroes for Modern Germans: Gender and the Nation
    (pp. 81-116)

    While Richard Wagner had declared as early as 1851 that historical topics were utterly obsolete for artistic purposes,¹ such operas were still very much alive at the time of the completion and first performance of the Ring cycle. Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, both recognisably set in the medieval period, were just reaching the height of their popularity on German stages in the years of the Reichsgründung, and some of the most successful operas of the 1870s centred on historical subject matter while following the traditional format of grand opéra. Cosima Wagner herself had to admit that the genre continued to have...

  10. 3 Lost in Transfiguration: Redemption Operas in the Fin de siècle
    (pp. 117-162)

    Although operas like Heinrich Hofmann’s Armin or Edmund Kretschmer’s Die Folkunger close with jubilation for the reunited couples and celebratory choruses of their liberated people, such happy endings became increasingly rare as the century proceeded. While tragic conclusions had long been the rule across the European operatic traditions, towards the fin de siècle the mandatory death(s) of the protagonist(s) acquired a striking transcendental dimension that had not been as conspicuous earlier in the nineteenth century. The finale of Grammann’s opera Thusnelda is a case in point. The eponymous heroine is ridiculed by the Romans, refuses to join the Germanic rescue...

  11. 4 The Sacred Nation and the Singing Nation: The Choral Movements
    (pp. 163-228)

    Despite the high density of theatres across the German-speaking countries, where the music-loving public could experience new operas even in many provincial towns, most people encountered large-scale works in the form of choral music, either as active singers in one of the many mixed or male choirs or as part of the sizeable audiences attracted by concerts and music festivals. For the Vormärz years James Garratt rightly considers the choral movement and its manifestations the ‘principal forum for mass amateur musical participation’, a forum that emphasised not the outstanding creative effort of the individual – though the choral movement had...

  12. 5 Symphonic Visions from the Periphery
    (pp. 229-272)

    If a survey had been conducted among nineteenth-century concert-goers, asking them which musical genre they considered the most typically German, the majority would probably have replied, ‘The symphony’. German-language opera struggled to assert its independence of Italian and French models; choral works were not held in high esteem as aesthetic objects in their own right since they were too closely intertwined with the national festival culture. Symphonic music, in contrast, could boast both a venerable tradition and aesthetic superiority. The latter had been established in the literary writings of the early Romantic school, who regarded large-scale instrumental music without any...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-298)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)