Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Rethinking Hanslick

Rethinking Hanslick: Music, Formalism, and Expression

Nicole Grimes
Siobhán Donovan
Wolfgang Marx
Volume: 97
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Rethinking Hanslick
    Book Description:

    Rethinking Hanslick: Music, Formalism, and Expression' is the first extensive English-language study devoted to Eduard Hanslick--a seminal figure in nineteenth-century musical life. Bringing together eminent scholars from several disciplines, this volume examines Hanslick's contribution to the aesthetics and philosophy of music and looks anew at his literary interests. The essays embrace ways of thinking about Hanslick's writings that go beyond the polarities that have long marked discussion of his work such as form/expression, absolute/program music, objectivity/subjectivity, and formalist/hermeneutic criticism. This approach takes into consideration both Hanslick's important 'On the Musically Beautiful' and his critical and autobiographical writings, demonstrating Hanslick's rich insights into the context in which a musical work is composed, performed, and received. 'Rethinking Hanslick' serves as an invaluable companion to Hanslick's prodigious scholarship and criticism, deepening our understanding of the major themes and ideas of one of the most influential music critics of the nineteenth century. Dr Nicole Grimes is a Marie Curie Fellow at University College Dublin (UCD), and the University of California, Irvine. Dr Siobhán Donovan is a College Lecturer at the School of Languages and Literatures, UCD. Dr Wolfgang Marx is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Music, UCD.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-795-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Mark Evan Bonds

    Any serious account of musical criticism or aesthetics in the nineteenth century has to confront Eduard Hanslick at some point. For more than forty years, he was the leading music critic in Vienna, one of Europe’s cultural capitals, and his brief treatise on aesthetics, Vom Musikalisch-Schönen, remains the central document in the history of the concept known as “absolute music,” the idea of music as a wholly self-referential art of pure form.

    But music was about more than music in Hanslick’s Vienna, as he himself well knew. It was a cultural battlefield that pitted defenders of the city’s musical past—...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Nicole Grimes

    Eduard Hanslick is celebrated today primarily for his seminal publication in the field of music aesthetics—Vom Musikalisch-Schönen: Ein Beitrag zur Revision der Ästhetik der Tonkunst. Upon its initial publication in Leipzig in 1854, this small book elicited controversy and heated debate. The nine subsequent editions published throughout Hanslick’s lifetime—between 1858 and 1902¹—ensured that the text remained the focus of debate on musical aesthetics well into the twentieth century.

    Vom Musikalisch-Schönen, as Geoffrey Payzant reminds us, was directed against the aesthetics of feeling prevalent in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writings on music, and sought to “clear away the rubble...

  8. Part One: Rules of Engagement

    • Chapter One Negotiating the “Absolute”: Hanslick’s Path through Musical History
      (pp. 15-37)
      James Deaville

      Hanslick’s name barely appears in current popular or everyday culture—and yet, most musicians do recognize “Hanslick,” albeit with an unmistakable bias in their reception. When performers, students, or even certain music historians and musicologists describe him, they most often provide an unflattering portrayal of a conservative, formalist aesthetician of absolute music on the one hand,¹ a fearsome yet eminent critic with gigantic blind spots on the other.²

      Music appreciation texts—the sources of knowledge for thousands of undergraduates and their instructors in North America since they began appearing in the 1960s—have perpetuated the topos of Hanslick as the...

    • Chapter Two Hanslick’s Composers
      (pp. 38-51)
      Fred Everett Maus

      Readers usually interpret Eduard Hanslick’s famous treatise On the Musically Beautiful in light of its memorable statements and arguments that articulate a “formalist” position, that is, an account of self-sufficient musical art, purely musical beauty, and an appropriate contemplative mode of listening. In this standard interpretation, Hanslick’s treatise remains, to the present, the most prominent example of formalism in musical aesthetics.

      However, Hanslick’s detailed music criticism, addressing specific compositions in the context of Viennese concert life, does not typically stay within the limits of this aesthetic position. The apparent discrepancy between Hanslick’s treatise—a brief, early text—and the other...

    • Chapter Three Hanslick, Legal Processes, and Scientific Methodologies: How Not to Construct an Ontology of Music
      (pp. 52-69)
      Anthony Pryer

      As Hanslick himself tells us, his treatise On the Musically Beautiful contains both a positive thesis and a negative one.¹ The positive thesis is concerned with what music is—the content of music consists solely of tonally moving forms, and musical beauty is of a special kind found only in music. The negative thesis is concerned with what music is not—distinct emotions are not part of the content of music, nor are the feelings conveyed by the composer or the performer, or felt by the listener. Curiously, the book has much more to say about the negative thesis than...

    • Chapter Four Otakar Hostinský, the Musically Beautiful, and the Gesamtkunstwerk
      (pp. 70-88)
      Felix Wörner

      Most of the reactions to Eduard Hanslick’s monograph Vom Musikalisch-Schönen during the author’s lifetime have either a decidedly polemical or a flattering ring to them. The result is that Hanslick’s theories on musical aesthetics are often abbreviated to handy catch-phrases, a practice that attests to the ideological prejudice of many of his contemporaries, and that has subsequently prevented an objective and substantive dialogue with his aesthetic theory. Despite avoiding such a polemical tone, Das Musikalisch-Schöne und das Gesammtkunstwerk vom Standpunkte der formalen Ästhetik,¹ published by Otakar Hostinský (1847–1910) in 1877, was poorly received and is largely forgotten today. The...

  9. Part Two: Liberalism and Societal Order

    • Chapter Five Hanslick on Johann Strauss Jr.: Genre, Social Class, and Liberalism in Vienna
      (pp. 91-107)
      Dana Gooley

      In his review of Johann Strauss Jr.’s 1881 operetta Der lustige Krieg, Hanslick critiqued the current state of Viennese operetta as follows: “This is what makes most of our Viennese operettas so intolerable: they earnestly ape Verdi and Meyerbeer. Your Sepperl and Leni sing like Raoul and Valentine, so that every squabble at the inn becomes a St. Bartholomew’s Night. At any moment, naturally, the composer can leap down from his tragic throne into the most trivial yodeling; Raoul and Valentine get transformed back into Sepperl and Leni, the Huguenots into tailor’s apprentices; and the rest of us get seasick...

    • Chapter Six Waltzing around the Musically Beautiful: Listening and Dancing in Hanslick’s Hierarchy of Musical Perception
      (pp. 108-131)
      Chantal Frankenbach

      Hanslick’s 1854 treatise Vom Musikalisch-Schönen entered the canon of musical aesthetics as an essentially negative formulation of musical beauty, claiming more what beautiful music is not than what it is. Thus, in order to demonstrate what he could not clearly posit in terms of pure sound, Hanslick employed a theory of musical perception as a more substantive criterion of judgment, drawing on various manifestations of listening to describe the effects of musical beauty. This approach led Hanslick to examine the incompetent musical listener as thoroughly as he did the competent listener, the true disciple of the beautiful. As Nicholas Cook...

    • Chapter Seven “Poison-Flaming Flowers from the Orient and Nightingales from Bayreuth”: On Hanslick’s Reception of the Music of Goldmark
      (pp. 132-159)
      David Brodbeck

      On May 18, 1900, the Vienna Court Opera celebrated the seventieth birthday of Carl Goldmark with a performance of the composer’s Die Königin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba), a grand opera in four acts on a libretto by Salomon Hermann Mosenthal. Although he would miss this celebratory performance, Eduard Hanslick, the semi-retired music critic for the Neue Freie Presse, made sure to mark the day with a feuilleton in which he paid friendly tribute to a composer whose works had long been a fixture in Vienna’s operatic and concert bills.¹ Hanslick had always harbored certain misgivings about Goldmark’s music,...

    • Chapter Eight German Humanism, Liberalism, and Elegy in Hanslick’s Writings on Brahms
      (pp. 160-184)
      Nicole Grimes

      Eduard Hanslick’s reviews of the works of Johannes Brahms span from 1862, when he announced “the appearance before the Viennese public of this blond, St. John visage of a composer,”¹ to the year of Hanslick’s death, 1904. Composer and critic struck up a close and lifelong friendship following their meeting in 1862, a friendship they shared with the Austrian surgeon and amateur musician Theodor Billroth—the three being on intimate du terms and forming the “closest musical threesome.”² Hanslick was the music correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse, Austria’s leading liberal daily newspaper.³ It was here that he published his...

  10. Part Three: Memoirs and Meaning in Social Contexts

    • Chapter Nine The Critic as Subject: Hanslick’s Aus meinem Leben as a Reflection on Culture and Identity
      (pp. 187-211)
      Lauren Freede

      As a genre, musical autobiographies fit comfortably in neither musicological nor literary studies. The vagaries of personal recollection make autobiographical writing problematic as a source of historical information, while the failure of many musical writers to realize that the genre is inherently subjective and highly artificial leads to the condemnation of many musical autobiographies for a lack of literary merit. To play on Goethe, whose own autobiography from 1823 served as a spiritual example for many later artists to follow: musical autobiographies reflect little Dichtung, and even less Wahrheit

      This is, admittedly, less of an issue when considering autobiographies by...

    • Chapter Ten “Faust und Hamlet in Einer Person”: The Musical Writings of Eduard Hanslick as Part of the Gender Discourse in the Late Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 212-235)
      Marion Gerards

      Reading Hanslick’s autobiography Aus meinem Leben (1894), one could be forgiven for thinking that both a public discourse on gender and the women’s movement were completely absent in Vienna during the latter part of the nineteenth century;¹ for nowhere does Hanslick refer to this socially and politically rousing topic.² Events such as the Prater massacre in August 1848, which witnessed the brutal suppression of a protest by female workers against a 25 percent pay cut, go completely unmentioned. Had this been pointed out to Hanslick, presumably he would have retorted that his job as music critic had nothing to do...

    • Chapter Eleven Body and Soul, Content and Form: On Hanslick’s Use of the Organism Metaphor
      (pp. 236-258)
      Nina Noeske

      It has been common practice since the early nineteenth century to compare a musical work with a “living organism,” a metaphor that Eduard Hanslick—like Richard Wagner, Franz Brendel, and many others—also employed, both in his treatise On the Musically Beautiful (1854) and in many of his reviews.¹ That he rarely reflects on this practice is revealing of the underlying assumptions of Hanslick’s aesthetic thinking, his musical preferences and antipathies. These unreflected, apparently self-evident paradigms are particularly relevant to the intellectual horizon of an author and his epoch. On the one hand, there is the tradition of German idealism...

  11. Part Four: Critical Battlefields

    • Chapter Twelve Hanslick and Hugo Wolf
      (pp. 261-288)
      Timothy R. McKinney

      Hugo Wolf spoke with the voice of both artist and critic. The reviews he wrote for the Wiener Salonblatt in 1884–87 before achieving lasting success as a composer of lieder provide fascinating glimpses into the concert life and musical politics of contemporary Vienna; they also provide rich insight into the relationship between composer and critic. By promoting the music of the New German School, Wolf placed himself squarely in opposition to Eduard Hanslick and Viennese cultural conservatism, thus joining in a larger struggle between proponents of traditionalism who championed Brahms and a stridently progressive faction that elevated Wagner to...

    • Chapter Thirteen Battle Rejoined: Hanslick and the Symphonic Poem in the 1890s
      (pp. 289-310)
      David Larkin

      As an observer of late nineteenth-century Viennese cultural life, Eduard Hanslick towers above all other journalists and writers who attempted to map the changing face of music in this period.¹ He has been typecast as the archenemy of musical progress, a foe to any who questioned the sacred tenets of “absolute” music, of which he was alleged to be a seminal theorist and tireless propagandist.² His championing of Brahms, as guardian of what he considered the legitimate compositional tradition, is as celebrated as his opposition to Liszt, Wagner, and their ilk, is notorious. Even when it was fashionable to point...

    • Chapter Fourteen On “Jewishness” and Genre: Hanslick’s Reception of Gustav Mahler
      (pp. 311-338)
      David Kasunic

      The historian Peter Gay concludes his 1978 book Freud, Jews and Other Germans: Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture with a chapter entitled “For Beckmesser: Eduard Hanslick, Victim and Prophet.” What is remarkable about the chapter is Gay’s studied avoidance of the issue of anti-Semitism as it relates to arguments about Die Meistersinger or Hanslick, or both. In a book that elsewhere addresses issues of anti-Semitism, this last chapter fashions Hanslick as one of the “other Germans” of its title. The issue of anti-Semitism, however, is picked up in two of the chapter’s footnotes. Footnote fourteen cites Friedrich Blume’s encyclopedia...

  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 339-344)
  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 345-350)
  14. Index
    (pp. 351-360)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 361-361)