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Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style

Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style <jats:p>The belief that Beethoven's "late" or "third-period" works represent the pinnacle of his achievement is at odds with the earliest critical views of these pieces. In the decades just following the composer's death, critics could not separate the perceived musical problems of the late style from Beethoven's physical ailments. While the common explanation for the elevation of these last pieces to their current position of privilege has been a musical one-the works were written before their time, demanding considerable study before they were fully understood and appreciated-I propose that it was a new understanding of Beethoven's biography that led to their veneration. Richard Wagner, in his 1870 Beethoven essay, radically reinterpreted the influence of deafness, claiming that it was in fact the source of Beethoven's creativity and genius. This paper explores Wagner's romanticization of Beethoven's deafness and speculates as to why such a paradoxical position may have appealed not just to Wagner, but to the critics who followed him.</jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the American Musicological Society CrossRef

Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style

Journal of the American Musicological Society , Volume 51 (1): 49-82 – Jan 1, 1998

Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style


Abstract

<jats:p>The belief that Beethoven's "late" or "third-period" works represent the pinnacle of his achievement is at odds with the earliest critical views of these pieces. In the decades just following the composer's death, critics could not separate the perceived musical problems of the late style from Beethoven's physical ailments. While the common explanation for the elevation of these last pieces to their current position of privilege has been a musical one-the works were written before their time, demanding considerable study before they were fully understood and appreciated-I propose that it was a new understanding of Beethoven's biography that led to their veneration. Richard Wagner, in his 1870 Beethoven essay, radically reinterpreted the influence of deafness, claiming that it was in fact the source of Beethoven's creativity and genius. This paper explores Wagner's romanticization of Beethoven's deafness and speculates as to why such a paradoxical position may have appealed not just to Wagner, but to the critics who followed him.</jats:p>

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Publisher
CrossRef
ISSN
0003-0139
DOI
10.2307/831897
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p>The belief that Beethoven's "late" or "third-period" works represent the pinnacle of his achievement is at odds with the earliest critical views of these pieces. In the decades just following the composer's death, critics could not separate the perceived musical problems of the late style from Beethoven's physical ailments. While the common explanation for the elevation of these last pieces to their current position of privilege has been a musical one-the works were written before their time, demanding considerable study before they were fully understood and appreciated-I propose that it was a new understanding of Beethoven's biography that led to their veneration. Richard Wagner, in his 1870 Beethoven essay, radically reinterpreted the influence of deafness, claiming that it was in fact the source of Beethoven's creativity and genius. This paper explores Wagner's romanticization of Beethoven's deafness and speculates as to why such a paradoxical position may have appealed not just to Wagner, but to the critics who followed him.</jats:p>

Journal

Journal of the American Musicological SocietyCrossRef

Published: Jan 1, 1998

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