Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany

TitleMusic and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRehding, Alexander
Number of Pages308
PublisherOxford University Press

A few weeks after the reunification of Germany, Leonard Bernstein raised his baton above the ruins of the Berlin Wall and conducted a special arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This now-iconic performance is a palpable example of "musical monumentality"—a significant concept which underlies our cultural and ideological understanding of Western art music since the nineteenth-century. Although the concept was first raised in the earliest years of musicological study in the 1930s, a satisfying exploration of the "monumental" in music has not yet been made. Alexander Rehding, in Music and Monumentality. sets his focus on the main players of the period within the Austro-German repertoire as he unpacks a two-fold definition of "musical monumentality." In the conventional sense, monumentality is a stylistic property often described as 'grand,' 'uplifting,' and 'sublime' and rife with overpowering brass chorales, sparkling string tremolos, triumphant fanfares, and glorious thematic returns. Yet Rehding sees the monumental in music performing a cultural task as well: it is employed in the service of establishing national identity.

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