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Absolute MusicThe History of an Idea$
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Mark Evan Bonds

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199343638

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199343638.001.0001

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(p.219) 11 Polemics
Absolute Music

Mark Evan Bonds

Oxford University Press

Armed with new nouns that aligned philosophical concepts with specific repertories, critics debated the superiority of absolute and program music in a spirit of intense partisanship throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. As in ideological disputes of all kinds, each party tended to misrepresent the other’s views. Self-styled progressives routinely described the “forms” of absolute music as “rigid,” “rule-bound,” and “outmoded,” while self-styled traditionalists dismissed program music as inherently “formless” and “unmusical.” Such differences reflected more than simply a contrast of aesthetic outlooks, for the debate about music was part of a larger culture war in a period of enormous social, political, and technological change. One side perceived the arts as an instrument of reform, while the other perceived them as a refuge of stability from those same forces of change.

Keywords:   Franz Brendel, Franz Liszt, Eduard Hanslick, Richard Wagner, August Wilhelm Ambros, Adolph Bernhard Marx, Johann Christian Lobe, Adolph Kullak, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Friedrich von Hausegger

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