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Title: Music theory in nineteenth-century Germany as a context for Wagner's Götterdämmerung
Author: Armitage, A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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Initial impressions would suggest that music theory intended for educational use and Wagner's Götterdämmerung have in common only their broad era and general location, that is, nineteenth-century Germany. The first issue which this raises, therefore, is how such theory might provide a relevant context for Wagner's music drama. A historical approach to theory illuminates its pedagogical role but reading theory as a nineteenth-century German text reveals the deeper significance of its content, its emphases and its omissions. The result is a subplot of aesthetic values and artistic expectations which assumes a further ideological significance, turning theory into not only a critical yardstick for German art but an allegory for Germany's wider artistic, cultural and political aspirations. Before examining Götterdämmerung in this context, I examine the artistic ideas which culminated in the Ring as a whole, their evolution, development and position towards Germany's prevailing ethos. I focus particularly on 'Die Kunst und die Revolution', 'Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft' and Oper und Drama from Wagner's early years in Zurich, as well as two considerably later essays, 'Modern' and 'Uber die Anwendung der Musik auf das Drama', which were written after the Ring's first complete performance. Wagner's position towards nineteenth-century Germany's artistic and cultural ethos appears to be shaped by his notion of modernity, a notion which in turn shapes his whole conception of the music drama. Within the latter the place and role of symphonic music, which had become Germany's distinguishing musical genre, is crucially significant. Wagner's two late essays may appear to reverse beliefs expressed some three decades earlier but they arise, not least, from the need to explain definitively symphonic music's role in the music drama as well as Eduard Hanslick's ideologically loaded criticism. Wagner attached great importance to the reception of his music drama so it is ironic that his work has provoked such diverse receptions as those represented by Eduard Hanslick, Alfred Lorenz and Carl Dahlhaus. Analysing the different understandings of his art from which these divergent receptions have sprung reveals that they are all based on an essentially one-sided approach to Wagner's conception of his work and its place within nineteenth-century Germany.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available