Fjordman: A History of European Music Part III

Fjordman has posted Part III of “A History of European Music” at the Brussels Journal. Some excerpts are below:

Beethoven’s body of work is not at large as Mozart’s, although Beethoven died at fifty-six while Mozart died at the young age of thirty-five when he was still getting better and maturing as a composer. What great masterpieces the world would have known had he lived for another generation we do not know. There are other differences between these two giants in the history of music, too. Mozart was buried in a common grave, as was the custom at the time, while thousands of citizens lined the streets of Vienna at Beethoven’s funeral in March 1827. All later composers have had to face Beethoven’s tremendous influence. As Peter Watson states in his book Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud:

“All music leads up to Beethoven, says Mumford Jones, and all music leads away from him. Beethoven, Schubert and Weber comprised a smaller grouping, of what we might call pre-romantic composers, who between them changed the face of musical thought, and musical performance. The great difference between Beethoven (1770-1827) and Mozart, who was only fourteen years older, was that Beethoven thought of himself as an artist. There is no mention of that word in Mozart’s letters — he considered himself a skilled craftsman who, as Haydn and Bach had done before him, supplied a commodity. But Beethoven saw himself as part of a special breed, a creator, and that put him on a par with royalty and other elevated souls… Goethe was just one who responded to the force of his personality, writing, ‘Never have I met an artist of such spiritual concentration and intensity, such vitality and great-heartedness. I can well understand how hard he must find it to adapt to the world and its ways.’ Even the crossings-out in his autograph music have a violence that Mozart, for example, lacked. Like Wagner after him, Beethoven felt that the world owed him a living, because he was a genius.”

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Beethoven’s contemporary, the poet, novelist, playwright and scholar Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), was the greatest literary figure of German Romanticism, but unlike Beethoven he was hostile to the French Revolution from the very beginning. He was born in Frankfurt am Main, then a city-state within the Holy Roman Empire. Much of his life he lived in Weimar, where he also died. He helped establish this city as an important intellectual center, and along with Friedrich Schiller he was one of the leading figures of Weimar Classicism. His father was the son of an innkeeper. Goethe was educated with his sister at home by tutors until he was 16. In 1765 he left to study law in Leipzig, where he indirectly became one of the disciples of the pioneering art historian Johann Winckelmann. At Strasbourg in 1770-71 he met the intellectual Johann Gottfried Herder, who taught Goethe to look at literature and art as the expression of a specific national genius and culture.

Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.