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Beethoven and His World
Edited by Scott Burnham & Michael P. Steinberg

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Chapter 1


Reinhold Brinkmann; translated by Irene Zedlacher

... the lava of revolution flows ... --Georg Büchner, Dantons Tod

At last, in France in the years 1788 and 1789, the volcanic movement broke forth whose fiery and bloody convulsions are yet to be subdued. Whoever knows what I have professed before, or who know me and what I profess today, will scarcely accuse me of ever having been an advocate of the French and their Revolution, or of sanctioning or acknowledging the tenets on which its leaders and advocates intended to build constitutions and nations. But I would prove myself an extremely ungrateful hypocrite were I not to acknowledge openly how infinitely much we owe this wild and fantastic revolution. It has unleashed a flowing ocean of fire for the spirit from which everyone who is not afraid of the light is free to draw; it has planted into heads and hearts essential ideas for the foundation of the future, which only twenty or thirty years ago most people would have been too afraid to conceive; it has accelerated that process of fermentation through which we had to pass as our purgatory if we wished to reach the heavenly gates of a new condition. It has shown how much the human spirit may dare to desire and risk in earthly things for the eternal call of reason within.

These sentences, written in 1814 by German nationalist author and politician Ernst Moritz Arndt, took a retrospective look at the impact of nearly twenty years of the French Revolution in German lands. In content and political assessment Arndt's comments hold firmly a middle ground between conservative and liberal positions, but the shape of the ideas and the vocabulary used to express them can be considered exemplary for representations of the Revolution by German intellectuals around 1800. Three aspects of this text seem typical and noteworthy.

    The Revolution's spiritual dimension is emphasized over any political meaning: it has planted "ideas" in the "heads and hearts" of the people; the "fermenting process" it has promoted has been a "spiritual" one. It has pointed its contemporaries toward an "eternal call of reason." Even more striking is the form of linguistic expression, primarily the elevated style, which reveals in word choice and linguistic gesture the emotional empathy if not enthusiasm of a writer who was, as he himself declares, no supporter of the Revolution. The conspicuous use of nature metaphors to describe the revolutionary events is representative; natural events of a grand scale are summoned as comparative imagery of extraordinary force. Third and last, Arndt refers to a specific experience of time: the Revolution has "movement"; it has "accelerated" processes; it deals with an emphatically-awaited "future."

    Let me first briefly discuss these three aspects as viewed against a broader documentary basis, then approach my central topic with this perspective.


    After the democratic failure of the political revolution—however that failure be identified, with Jacobean rule or with Napoleon's self-coronation—the Revolution was increasingly viewed as a spiritual force in the history of ideas, as a historical turning point in modern consciousness. Friedrich Gentz, the constitutional conservative and German translator of Edmund Burke's treatise against the revolution, wrote as early as 1790: "[The revolution] is the first practical triumph of philosophy, the first example of a government based on principles and a coherent and consistent system." And in the work of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg we find this 1790 aphorism: "The French Revolution is the work of philosophy, but what a leap from Cogito ergo sum to the first sound of à la Bastille at the Palais Royal!" Such an interpretation is in line with the typical German interpretation of the revolution as it was first, and in essence, defined by Kant in the famous paragraph from his 1798 Contest of Faculties:

The Revolution which we have seen taking place in our own times in a nation of gifted people may succeed, or it may fail ... but I maintain that this Revolution has aroused in the hearts and desires of all spectators who are not themselves caught up in it a sympathy which borders almost on enthusiasm, although the very utterance of this sympathy was fraught with danger. It cannot therefore have been caused by anything other than a moral disposition within the human race.

    In seemingly contemporary terms, the reception of the Revolution "in the souls of all spectators" is understood here as the realization of a philosophy of morals, as the expression of every human being's right to a civil constitution and—following from it—freedom. A quarter of a century later Georg Friedrich Hegel would argue this point forcefully. In his Philosophy of History we read:

The French Revolution has its beginning and origin in thought. Thought, which takes the general good as its ultimate goal and seeks out all which may oppose it, has risen against existing conditions. The ultimate purpose of thought is the freedom of will.... The freedom of the Will per se is the principal and substantial basis of all Right—is itself absolute, inherently eternal Right; and the Supreme Right in comparison with other specific Rights: nay, it is, even that by which man becomes man, and therefore the fundamental principle of the spirit.... It may however be remarked that the same principle obtained speculative recognition in Germany, in the Kantian philosophy.... Among the Germans this view assumed no other form than that of tranquil theory; but the French wished to give it practical effect.

    In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy Hegel expresses this self-consciously idealistic concept with a nationalist bent that contrasts even more sharply the thinking German with the acting Frenchman:

In the Republic of Plato we have met with the idea that the philosophers are those who ought to reign. Now is the time in which it is said that the spiritual are to govern.... Thus in the French Revolution we see that abstract thought is made to rule; in accordance with it, constitutions and laws are determined, it forms the bond between man and man; and men come to have the consciousness that what is esteemed amongst them is abstract thought, and that liberty and equality are what ought to be regarded; in this the subject also has his true value, even in relation to actuality.... In the philosophy of Kant, Fichte, and Schelling, the revolution to which in Germany the mind has advanced in these latter days, was formally thought out and expressed; the sequence of these philosophies shows the course which thought has taken. In this great epoch of the world's history two nations only have played a part, the German and the French, and this in spite of their absolute oppositions, or rather because they are so opposite.... In Germany this principle has burst forth as thought, spirit, Notion; in France in the form of actuality. In Germany what there is of actuality comes to us as a force of external circumstances, and as a reaction against the same.

    The equation of real and spiritual events, especially the extension of the term "revolution" to include spiritual phenomena and the idealist glorification of the latter, are also the background for Friedrich Schlegel's famous "Athenäums Fragment" of 1798. The dramatic events of the "great" French Revolution, which aimed at a change of reality and a radical new beginning, here come to serve as models for the assessment and representation of trends in other fields that are directed toward the new, the future—especially in the sciences and the arts. The almost defensive elaboration of the programmatic opening thesis in Schlegel's aphorism (which is frequently quoted in truncated form) makes this clear:

The French Revolution, Fichte's philosophy, and Goethe's Meister are the greatest tendencies of this era. Whoever is offended by this juxtaposition, whoever cannot take any revolution seriously that isn't noisy and materialistic, hasn't yet achieved a lofty, broad perspective on the history of mankind. Even in our shabby histories of civilization ... many a little book, almost unnoticed by the noisy rabble at the time, plays a greater role than anything they did.

    In Schlegel's aphorism, a philosophical treatise and a novel are called upon not only as historical witnesses, but as historical agents whose meaning for the era is equated with the French Revolution. I will pursue this mode of thought and will later take it as an occasion to consider musical works—Beethoven's symphonies in general, and his Third Symphony in particular, composed a good half decade after the "Athenäums Fragment"—as additional representatives of those "greatest tendencies" of the age, directly linked to the French Revolution.


    Even Friedrich Gentz had to admit in 1790 that a possible "failure of this revolution" may have to be considered "one of the severest accidents ever to befall humanity.... It is hope and comfort for many of the old evils under which humanity suffers. Should this Revolution die away, all those evils will be ten times harder to cure." If even Gentz thought this, then it should not come as a surprise that German advocates of the Revolution often expressed their enthusiasm in somewhat dithyrambic tones. In 1790 Johann Heinrich Campe, elected honorary citizen of Paris by its revolutionaries, wrote from that city:

Before long an electric and luminous stream of concepts and insights will pour forth from here to all nations of this earth; from this place where the exalted human spirit rises free and brave like an eagle from the low and dark spheres toward the sunlit ocean of truth! No, it is not delusion, it is an incontrovertible fact, ... when I declare that human reason never before has appeared as now in a condition of such nobility, full power, activity, and promise, at least not so universally.... Soon this torrential and overflowing stream of ideas gushing forth from the pure spring of freedom will flood all of Europe.

    All the important components of contemporary German representations of the Revolution are subsumed here in one grand metaphor. The "torrential and overflowing stream of ideas" refers to the conception of revolution as an inner experience, as a philosophical idea. Campe's image of the flowing stream suggests an overwhelming natural event, defining its power in temporal terms, as "torrential" time. Campe uses the imagery of flowing again in other writings, for example when he describes, in a letter of August 4, 1789, his direct and overwhelming experience of the Parisian revolutionary public:

I have freed myself from the surging flood of people that more than ever rushes through the streets toward the public squares, and I sit down now at the shore, that is: in my room, to try to sort and bring into order the innumerable new images, ideas, and emotions enveloping the spectator at every step like a swarm of young bees. In vain! The roar of the human flood breaks into my remote little room through windows and doors and walls.

    Georg Forster, who was labeled a German Jacobin, used the analogous image of an "avalanche" that "gains in mass as it hurls downward and destroys any obstacle in its way" to illustrate the dangerous and inescapable forces of the revolution. Elsewhere Forster has the Revolution "flood all of Europe like sacred lava." The image of a flaming volcanic eruption, as that of blazing fire generally, is also typical for descriptions of the Revolution. Ernst Moritz Arndt even talks about the "volcanoes of revolution," thus seeking to convey its force and suddenness as well as its dangers. Other images evoked are high mountains (especially the Alps), deep abysses, oceans, thunderstorms, and hurricanes, but also the sun; dawn was the symbol for an enlightened new beginning. It is an image used very emphatically by Hegel in a late and retrospective text: "It was a glorious dawn. All thinking creatures celebrated this era. A sublime sensibility reigned in those times, a spiritual enthusiasm pervaded the world." The identical arsenal of powerful natural images is employed in writings by opponents of the Revolution to communicate its horrors and dangers. Consider the poem "Die Revolution. Ein Gedicht im asklepiadischen Silbenmaße" (The Revolution. A Poem in Asclepiadic Meter) written in December 1789 by the Bonn amateur poet Apollinar (alias Bertram Maria Altstätten). Here are a few verses:

God, what is this terrible fate that pours with heavy hand such destiny on us! What storm lies above those mountains, brewing at the horizon! Clouds like soot exhaled from Hell approach, black and heavy, and move toward south and midnight, And, where ripped apart, the sky looks red, Red like blood. From deep in the east Thunder sounds ...

And see now, everywhere flare streams of sparks Thrown into the land by rage's flame, Burning bright.—Save us, you eternal ones! You alone can help. Human power Cannot control the flood which breaks the dams.

    And finally there is the image of fermentation, representing the idea of a natural evolutionary process. This image found in the passage by Ernst Moritz Arndt quoted above, is also used by Johannes Weitzel: "The stuff of revolution lies brewing amidst the nations."

    These nature metaphors are significant in that they help to stress the aspect of process in the Revolution. Above all though, they endow all political events with the force of destiny: a law that often is beyond the individual's grasp nevertheless breaks in on him/her with elemental force and nature-like consequences. The Revolution thus becomes the inevitable result of a human disposition toward reason, of the development of politics and the state, of actual conditions. Such nature imagery further suggests a radical new beginning, a beginning on a prehistorical if not on a pre-worldly basis. Franz Dautzenberg, publicist in Aachen, recognized this when he wrote in 1792 that a "nation destroys the entire ancient foundation of its constitutional structure, nearly throwing itself into Nature's arms to start afresh." In contrast to the rational claims of philosophical-idealist interpretations, this kind of metaphor contains a potent irrational element, making it possible for Edmund Burke to use identical metaphors to denounce the Revolution as evil and dangerous. That this kind of metaphor is quite inconsistent and problematic shall be mentioned only in passing: nowhere is it thought—or at least openly discussed—that the emphatically invoked dawn is necessarily followed by a sunset. Reinhart Koselleck has interpreted the phenomenon of a partial contradiction in the metaphors as an indication of the inherent failure of the Revolution in both character and process.

    But this rhetoric of reception also builds a bridge from the French Revolution to the arts. These metaphors, images of great and overwhelming natural phenomena, are also characteristic of definitions of the sublime in contemporary aesthetic theories. By distinguishing beauty from the sublime, Edmund Burke's early treatise A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful of 1757, Kant's Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime of 1764, his 1790 Critique of Judgement, and Schiller's On the Sublime of 1801 (which followed Kant's ideas) furnish a descriptive paradigm of the sublime which is then used to define genres and works of art. I will later return to these linkages in the descriptions of real and artistic phenomena under the rubric of the sublime, as well as to internal aesthetic parallels between theories of the ode and of the large symphonic form from around 1800, to determine the specific content of Beethoven's Eroica in a comparative manner.


    Prior to that I want to discuss a third issue. It concerns a new mode of temporal experience. Again I turn to a text by Ernst Moritz Arndt, this time dating from 1804-1805, the years when the Eroica received its finishing touches and its first performances:

It is regularly asserted ...: whoever has lived through the last twenty years has lived centuries. But that just expresses mere amazement about the period.... The era is in flight. Its representative images pass in such quick succession that contemporaries stare and wonder, stand frozen and understand nothing. The fast succession gives them the impression of an endless period of time unfolding before their eyes, all the more so because in their ossified state they do not participate and thus have lost any measure of time itself.

Time is fleeing; the wiser ones have long known it. Unimaginable things have happened; the world has suffered great transformations calmly and noisily, in the gentle passing of days as well as during the hurricanes and volcanoes of revolutions....

    The most overwhelming effect the Revolution had on its contemporaries was indeed an entirely new mode of experiencing "time." This experience was based on the recognition that far-reaching and profound social changes were taking place, changes as extraordinary in speed as they were unforeseen. Contemporaries noted the tempo of change, the acceleration in the passage of time itself, and the "contemporaneity of the non-contemporary," the latter a result of differing levels of acceleration in disparate fields. Such experiences were frequently expressed in the wake of the Revolution. A quote from Konrad Engelbert Oelsner exemplifies the first aspect. He wrote in 1797: "The revolution has accelerated the progress of the human spirit in most extraordinary ways." Georg Forster's statements regarding the "Revolution as a new and inescapable force" and the characterization of the Revolution as "an avalanche with accelerated speed" which "gains in mass as it proceeds," quoted above in a different context, belong here as well. In 1791 Karl Friedrich Reinhard, also quoted above, wrote: "The French form of government developed fast and without warning. There were moments in those past two years when it was well-nigh possible to say that the sun shone upon an entirely different nation after only one single turn around the earth." And Friedrich Schlegel, in his Viennese lectures on the philosophy of history of 1828, also considered acceleration the defining quality of the "transitional period from the age of Enlightenment to the time of revolution," though now he assessed it more critically and more conservatively: "Before long a tempo too rapid and passionate will affect the course of this event and the progress of time ..." The acceleration in temporal experience is seen as a special feature of historical progress, an intensification if not radicalization of the idea of progress.

    To illustrate the other phenomenon referred to above—the contemporaneity of the noncontemporary—I call upon the publisher Friedrich Perthes as witness. His diagnosis from the early nineteenth century is already distinctly inspired by historicist thought:

In previous eras, spiritual trends and the entire world of thought and will were separated by centuries in difference; but our age has reconciled the irreconcilable within the lifetime of the last three generations alive today. The immense contrasts between the years 1750, 1789, and 1815 lack any transition and do not appear as sequences. Rather, today they exist side-by-side among all living human beings, depending on whether they are grandfather, father, or grandchild.

    In one brief sentence, Johanna Schopenhauer expressed the intensification of the historical moment through the experience of a compression of time: "Ten years are now so much more than a hundred used to be."

    Modern historians such as Reinhart Koselleck and Hans-Ulrich Wehler have pointed out the various consequences resulting from this generational experience during the decades around 1800. First of all, this change in temporal structure gave rise to the modern notion of history. Johann Gottfried Herder made this clear already at the end of the eighteenth century: "The word history as we understand it does not derive from compiling and epically organizing and weaving pragmatically, but from the multifaceted and powerful term `to happen'; I do not want anyone to be unaware of this fact." "History" here clearly denotes a sequence of linear events and actions, with the idea of a movement from something to something as fundamental. The category of progress thus appears inherently accounted for. Second, after the transformations effected by the revolution, this new and radicalized experience of time helped to advance the notion of a qualitative rupture between the old and the new era.

    "In the real as well as the figurative sense," wrote Johanna Schopenhauer in her 1839 memoirs, "how different, how so very different everything has become in these recent years that encompass the greater part of my existence! In express carriages and steamships, life and travel move forward at triple and quadruple speed; even the hours gallop more rapidly. What will become of arms and legs, but especially of the head, once railroads cover the earth like a net, or Mr. Green carries out his plan to reach America in his balloon in three days' time, or circles the world in only one week? This is indeed a bewildering question, and only time will tell." The author explicitly compares this new experience to the "old and honest times whose customs and lifestyles seem so distant now, as if separated from us by centuries even though scarcely fifty years have elapsed since their passing." She registers the momentous experience of accelerated historical time as well as the distance contemporaries perceived between the old and the new era. At the same time, the historical progression into the nineteenth century clearly was seen as tied to a process of "denaturalization" (Koselleck) of temporal experience. The technological revolution (represented by steamship, railroad, and hot-air balloon) further added to the acceleration in life's processes, thus leading into the industrial and technological era, into modernity. But that is already beyond the scope of my topic.

    At this point I would like to depart from my topic for a moment and interpolate a few thoughts on methodology and subject matter. First of all, the picture I have painted of the events of the 1789 revolution, its suddenness and the accompanying drastic changes, aspires to be neither a scientifically accurate representation nor an objective assessment of the actual events and their early history. Current historiography emphasizes the interdependence of the outbreak of the revolution and the historical events leading up to it rather than the notion of a radical break with the preceding past. Moreover, the development of a new notion of time is considered the result of a much longer historical development. But a scientifically accurate historical assessment of events is not the object of my investigation. What I wish to discuss instead are the contemporary modes of experiencing the Revolution, i.e., the subjective views handed down to us by those living under its immediate influence. Consequently, my investigation is concerned exclusively with the reception of the Revolution, particularly with the reception of the Revolution in Germany. Furthermore, the radical temporalization of historical perception as it is presented here cannot be explained by the Revolution alone. Experience of the Revolution was not the only factor creating this new way of thinking, even though it had the most impact. Last, the principle of temporalization is not restricted to history alone, but is germane to other fields as well, including the sciences and the arts, and—if one considers delays, overlaps, and retrogressions as they happen well into the nineteenth century—affects the entire interconnected character of the life of each individual.

    We owe much of this more comprehensive, complex, and chronologically expanded view of trends toward temporalization in the eighteenth and nineteenth century to the work of Wolf Lepenies. Lepenies shows why an accurate "chronology of transformed temporal experience is difficult to establish." Particularly in the natural sciences, the "primacy of experience" and the enormous quantitative growth of knowledge—the exponentially growing accumulation of knowledge as well as the "empirical imperative" (i.e., a new understanding of science that promoted evidentiary proof and pushed toward the accumulation of a plethora of data as well as the study of the complexity of data relations that no longer could be mastered with methods of spatial categorical classification)—motivated the trend toward temporalization. Organizational structures and institutions also played an important part in this. From the academic disciplines—botany, chemistry, medicine, but also jurisprudence and philosophy, philology (with the transition from systematic grammar to historical philology), to name only some—we obtain a wide range of evidence of trends toward temporalization. A pivotal aspect of this trend is a transformation in the concept of Nature, the turn away from timeless systematic notions toward a thinking about Nature in temporal terms. Parallel with the establishment of the concept of history comes the discovery of a directed development in Nature: a "history" of Nature. A particularly interesting piece of formal evidence is Chateaubriand's disavowal, in the 1826 revision of his "Essai historique, politique et moral sur les révolutions" of 1797, of "the cyclical notion of history." In descriptions of developmental stages, the image of the spiral generally begins to replace the cyclical metaphor. Lepenies, following Jauss, correctly observes, the spiral is a "metaphor of compromise," symbolizing the Janus-headed ambivalence of the nineteenth century. On the one hand it radicalizes temporalization and historization, but simultaneously creates a "re-naturalization" to counteract temporalization.

    We can cite two opposites from the world of art to highlight this. When the railroad line Paris-Rouen-Orléans was opened in 1843, Heinrich Heine wrote: "What changes will influence our way of seeing and our concepts! Even the basic notions of space and time have been cast into doubt. The railroad has murdered space, all that is left us is time alone." In contrast, Richard Wagner's late work Parsifal includes the line: "Here time becomes space."

    Important to my discussion of aesthetic issues within the context of a change in temporal consciousness are (1) radical temporalization itself and its intensification through acceleration; (2) the direction of the temporal axis toward progress, i.e., the moment of finality within this mode of thought; and (3) the belief in the beginning of a new, superior age as the result of both. This concept, as well as the metaphors of finality with their open references to the French Revolution, will serve the analysis of a musical work of the early nineteenth century—Beethoven's Third Symphony—in its historical context. I will look both for the unique and the historically exemplary aspect of the symphony, as well as its links to the energies unleashed by the French Revolution. I chose not to look for personal allegories—the "hero" or his concrete manifestation as "Prometheus" or "Napoleon"—but rather to see the historical content as sediments within the work's form and structure.

* * *

In 1807 the secretary of the Gewandhaus, Friedrich Rochlitz, had short explanations printed on the program leaflets to prepare his Leipzig audience for the extraordinary in Beethoven's new symphony, using the following words: "Fiery, magnificent Allegro/sublime, solemn Funeral March/impetuous Scherzando/grand Finale, partially in strict style." The epithets "fiery," "magnificent," "sublime," "solemn," "grand" are identical with the adjectives used in treatises and encyclopedia articles on aesthetics that seek to define the sublime. The two principal genres defined in art as thoroughly "sublime" are, in literature, the ode, which dates back to antiquity, and in music, the more recent genre of the instrumental symphony as it was developed around 1800.

    "The symphony is excellently suited for the expression of grandeur, passion, and the sublime. Its ultimate purpose in a chamber concert is to offer all the splendor of instrumental music ... The chamber symphony ... achieves this aim with a sonorous, polished, and brilliant style" writes Johann Georg Sulzer in his 1794 encyclopedic theory of the arts, that compendium which disseminated the contemporary communis opinio in all things aesthetic. The first movement of the symphony is equated explicitly with the sublime effects of the ode:

The allegros of all the best chamber symphonies contain profound and clever ideas, a somewhat free treatment of the parts [freye Behandlung des Satzes], an apparent disorder in the melody and harmony, strongly marked rhythms of different types, robust melodies and unison passages, concerting middle voices, free imitations of a theme (often in fugal style), sudden modulations and digressions from one key to another that are all the more striking the more distant their relation, distinct gradations of loud and soft, and especially the crescendo, which when used in conjunction with an ascending and swelling expressive melody, is of the greatest effect.... Such an allegro is to the symphony what a Pindaric ode is to poetry: it elevates the soul of the listener, and to be successful, demands the same spirit, the same sublime imagination, and the same knowledge of art.

    Certainly, Rochlitz's use of the terminology of the sublime from the encyclopedia in the concert program of the Eroica has strategic reasons: the Eroica, which was criticized by the press, particularly the Viennese press, as a problematic work, ought to be presented to the Leipzig audience—and established—as the paradigm of the symphonic genre. Obviously, the naturalistic revolutionary metaphors described earlier cannot as easily be applied to music as, for example, to painting, particularly the flourishing contemporary genre of landscape painting. But in form as well as in intensity (the grand, extraordinary, overwhelming effects; the uplifting and stirring emotions evoked; the suddenness of events etc.), the rhetoric used to describe the symphony follows the same principles as the rhetoric of the Revolution. A corresponding element is also the moment of ardor, the emotional and spiritual shock created by a new and unprecedented experience. In an 1805 article for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, the most important nonregional German music journal of the time, Rochlitz described the affective power of symphonic music from the perspective of the performer:

You burn like fire, ... you are frightened and uneasy! You play and you play well, and still—you hardly know what and how you are playing! You have to contain yourself with all your might so as not to tear into the instrument, or to rush the tempo and carry the others with you. Everything has to come out right, be it ever so terribly difficult! And you succeed—yet, without fail you feel as if you should have rushed forward ever more magnificently, more forcefully.

    Around 1800 musically interested contemporaries considered the pure instrumental symphony the pinnacle of music. A Musical Diary for the Year 1803 contains the following sentences:

Purely instrumental music is the only musical genre that satisfies itself. In it alone does the art of music appear in absolute purity. Unconcerned with poetry or sculpture, this music follows its own path; it speaks solely for itself, independently and free; alone and autonomously does it reach and fulfill the highest goal. Symphonies are the triumph of this art. Unconstrained and free, the artist can conjure the entire world of emotions ...

    Three years later, an anonymous author in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung praised the symphony as the quintessence of modern music, and as the model for all other genres (vocal music included). In such texts, the ascent of the symphonic principle is described in metaphors evoking a phenomenon in Nature (also interesting is how the nationalist element comes into play):

It is generally known and quite evident, thus nobody will disclaim it: the world owes to the Germans the grand, fullvoiced orchestral symphony—first to Haydn and Mozart. It is the embodiment of the supreme and most brilliant pinnacle of modern instrumental music. It rightfully rules not only its own genre, but also exercises its influence on all other genres of instrumental music, though with less justification there. Like those blessed with protean talents to reach the utmost pinnacle, the symphony reaches beyond its boundaries and gradually takes possession of all around it by right of the stronger.

    As a consequence of the dominant position of the new symphonic genre, the author formulates what can be considered the claim of the symphony as instrument of culturation:

No composer who desires to keep up with the times [progress!], who does not want to become rigid, clumsy, or irritating writing pieces nobody but he himself wants to hear (at least for now); no student of music who strives after the highest, desires to educate himself with the finest models, seeks entry into the world of music and to create an audience for himself; no true if only halfway serious music lover—will be able to make do without studying or at least slightly knowing these ultimate masterworks [the symphonies].

    Owing to the complexity of the new symphony, the author concludes with a demand for the printing of scores "for a twofold reason: for adequate study and comprehensive guidance" (and because of the "poverty of most musicians," the scores have to be cheap!). In a final enthusiastic salvo, he declares the almost complete dependency of present musical institutions on the new symphony:

The symphony has assumed a more and more decisive role in all public institutions of music—especially in concerts—in direct response to its overtaking of all other musical genres. The more it was perfected to the highest degree by the greatest geniuses among composers, the more it was able to please a mixed audience. Yes, the way an orchestra now performs one of the new great symphonies is considered—generally not without reason—the measure of its ability to perform modern music at all; just as the manner of the audience's attention to and behavior toward this musical genre is taken—also largely for good reason—as an indication of the audience's ability to understand, listen to, and enjoy important new music.... Every manager of an orchestra who desires to achieve the best for his art, or only the best for his institution (even those who have only their reputation and their pocketbook at heart), must consider it of highest importance to own the best of all existing symphonies and to perform them well.

    After 1800 the historical, artistic, and social status of the symphony was defined on the one hand by new artistic claims and the enlightened ideas of bourgeois society, and a new public realm and economic structure on the other. The canonization of the symphony as the dominant musical genre went hand-in-hand with the canonization of the sublime, the new, and progressive as principal aesthetic categories. Beethoven's canonization took place in the context of this new orientation in artistic production and reception. Revered initially as a member of the Viennese classical triad, he eventually was considered its most influential composer. Whereas early Beethoven reception had criticized the "breaking of the ode" ("Odenriß") in his work as "bizarre," as a disruption of the harmony of the classical ideal of beauty, this category from the arsenal of the sublime now became a positive and enthusiastically embraced factor in the representation of progress in musical works of art. The extreme readiness of post-Revolution generations to experience the new, the extraordinary, and the progressive made this shift possible.

    I do not regard Beethoven's music as music of the Revolution, just as I avoid the metaphor of a Beethovenian revolution in music. But his works, particularly those composed after 1800, mirror a shift in consciousness. They mirror the emphatic embrace of the new, of a new time, of a new century, one generally described by historians as a consequence of the French Revolution. The advocacy of a new man, a new social order, and a new mode of government—I have cited evidence for all above—led to the sensitizing of the contemporaries in other fields as well, particularly in the arts. A sensibility magnified by the experience of the Revolution entered into the rhetoric used in emphatic discussions of "the new" in texts and treatises on the arts. Even Beethoven's declaration of a "new way," of a "wholly new manner" of composition, now "sounds" different from Haydn's use of the same formula only a few decades earlier. Of course, the word is used in a letter to a publisher and refers also to the nascent market for music in bourgeois society, but that is part of the universal social changes and in no way minimizes its aesthetic-political thrust. Again, the enthusiasm for the new in symphonic music, for the possibility to experience something new and unheard of, as well as the subjective intensity of such experiences, are marked by a general readiness for change, by the enthusiasm for the principle of progress for which the Revolution had prepared the way. It even may be possible to argue that at the point when the failure of the Revolution had become indisputable, art began to assume the role of a surrogate. Since reality did not bring fulfillment, the sensitized individual threw him/ herself into art, simulating in art what was denied by reality. And in the temporal art of music, the experience of time, of a new—in this context—revolutionary structural use of time, assumed a central role.

    The historically decisive work in this regard is Beethoven's Third Symphony. Contemporaries already attested a qualitative leap beyond historical precedents in the Eroica. On February 13, 1805, Haydn biographer Georg August Griesinger wrote to the Leipzig publisher Härtel:

This much I can assure you: the symphony was received to great acclaim at two academies, one at Prince Lobkowitz's and the other at the house of an active music lover named Wirth. I hear it praised as a work of genius by admirers and opponents alike. The former say: it transcends anything Haydn and Mozart have created; symphonic composition has been elevated to a higher level! But the latter miss a balanced unity, and criticize the amassing of colossal ideas. In such cases everybody is right.

    Indeed, the historical leap that the Eroica realized through sound has to do with its usage of temporal structure. It is the temporalization of musical form. It seems somewhat paradoxical to use the concept of temporalization in the context of music, an art form that extends over time as time. The term does not refer to accelerando, increase in tempo (though this can be a means of temporalization, albeit a rather superficial external one), but rather to the simulation of acceleration by the compositional fleshing out of the process. A differentiation between the two polarities "form as architecture" and "form as process" will clarify the case. Form as architecture is constructed symmetry, reference to a center, the figure of the circle, being-in-itself. Form as process is directedness, dynamic forward motion, the metaphor of the arrow, and an emphasis of the finality and goal orientedness of the musical form.

    Compositions of the form-as-process variety address both path and goal. As for the path the usual descriptive models refer to composing thematically and quasi-logical extension, i.e. "developing variation." More important still seems the concept of form as a chain of events which invariably refers beyond itself, a chain of events that does not conclude but progresses, continually pressing forward, in which the processes create a dynamic experience of time. The goal of a form oriented in this way lies at the end of the work, or even beyond the work itself. Finality is its organizing principle; all symphonies organized as processes are "finale symphonies." In the radically constructed process form, repetition becomes problematic. In sonata form the repetition of the exposition and the beginning of the recapitulation counteract the processual character. The Eroica offers specific solutions for such problematic aspects: identical thematic configurations at the beginning of exposition, recapitulation, and coda are developed differently, drawing different conclusions from analogous situations that are organized in relationship to one another in terms of intensification. Added to this in specific moments on the local plane is a simulated acceleration, achieved through the unfolding of the orchestral apparatus. This creates the experience of "torrential time," of a "torrential and overflowing stream of ideas" (to cite again the metaphors Johann Heinrich Campe used to illustrate the experience of the Revolution), and the immense agitation of movement (transporting player and listener alike in the manner described by Rochlitz). In musical experience "history" is thus realized as "action" (Herder). The engaged listener understands "the nearly universal yearning for a new existence" (Dautzenberg on the effects of the revolution, 1792) as the "defining moment" of his era. What Friedrich Schlegel formulated in 1828 as a diagnosis of the early nineteenth century here can be heard symbolically transformed into musical language: "Never before was there a time so deeply, so directly, and so exclusively and universally directed toward the future as ours."

    Concrete musical analysis becomes indispensable at this point. I will primarily focus on four striking formal moments in the first movement: the opening (mm. 1-45); the end of the development and the start of the recapitulation (mm. 382ff.), the end of the recapitulation and the beginning of the coda (mm. 551ff.); and finally the end of the movement itself (mm. 631ff.). Transitional sections, so for example the additional appearances of the chromatic degree C#/Db during the development (compare mm. 178ff. with C-C#-D; mm. 346ff. with C-Db-D-Eb), are not considered in the somewhat condensed presentation below.

    1. Two chords are played by the full orchestra at the beginning: harsh, almost undomesticated, thoroughly violent in sound. They define tonality, meter, tempo, orchestra, musical space, the intense "tone" of the whole. The thematic entry follows, from below, building the orchestral texture from the cellos up and creating musical space. The thematic idea, a simple broken triad over a spirited pulsating eight-note figure, appears in three configurations without ever achieving classical unity, i.e. without being fully realized in the sense of periods. In its first appearance, the idea is unexpectedly interrupted by the foreign chromatic note C# (m. 7), a note which suggests an objection, effecting syncopated crescendos (first violins) and sforzati, orchestral restlessness, indications of a breakup of the movement, which then returns to the native key of E-flat major. Only the strings are involved in the central event. Then the woodwinds join in. (As always in classical movements, the horns are considered part of the woodwind section, functioning as a link to the strings.) At the second entry, now with thematically employed woodwinds, analogous chromatic steps (Db and E in m. 18, later A and Cb in m. 22) lead to harmonic shifts (m. 19, F minor), and in conjunction with the strings, to the splitting off of motifs. Once again, no complete theme is developed. The F-minor key (the relative to A-flat major) pulls the movement "down" into the subdominant region, opening the harmonic ambitus and producing more pronouncedly than before a pressure toward new regions. Orchestral space and dynamics expand, the sforzati intensify to hemiolic accumulations within the entire movement, which "gains in mass as it proceeds" (to use Forster's rhetoric); then the third thematic entry breaks forth, again with a crescendo, in the full orchestra, fortissimo, with timpani and trumpets (m. 37). Again, no complete theme appears. The modulating transition of sonata convention follows immediately. But from the start the entire main part of the exposition was itself a "transition"—exemplary proof of a radical strategy of development, driven by a "new irrevocable propulsive force" (again citing Forster).

    2. An adequate compositional means to emphasize focal points of interest within their context is to precede them with unusual or extraordinary elements. The first movement of the Eroica does so to an extreme degree at the entry of the recapitulation. This important formal caesura is given additional meaning through the so-called cumulus, the superimposition of tonic (horn) and dominant (strings) in mm. 390ff. Following Rochlitz's review, this extraordinary and rule-breaking moment was considered a misprint and was—as existing orchestra materials prove—smoothed over in the early nineteenth century. And it is the horn that is emphasized here. The recapitulation with the thematic configuration of the beginning follows. The foreign chromatic: tone interferes again, but it is reinterpreted here: as Db it leads over to C, opening up the harmonic space, C major, then F major, and not F minor as in the beginning. That is, the subdominant shift is replaced by a rise to a double dominant, just as if (to use revolution rhetoric again, this time by Ernst Moritz Arndt) after passing through "purgatory," the "heavenly gates of a new condition" were opening up. And the thematic idea is now (m. 408) played by the horn (sic), marking a half-step upward from the sustained and repeated C to Db (sic!). The basic form of the mirroring (Goethe's "wiederholte Spiegelung"!) is identical, its partial reformulation opens up new ways—an equally simple and subtle procedure, the hurdle of the repeated caesura is used to drive the formal process emphatically forward. The recurring color of the horn, its prolonged standing on the fifth and the pronounced Db, form a strategic bill of exchange drawing on the future. The D-flat major step is played out in the lyrically intermittent combination of flute and violin color, before the main theme appears once again in E-flat (in m. 430) and in fact displays a "state of nobility, full power, activity" (Campe), while powerfully augmenting the orchestral tutti of m. 37 and anticipating the coda (m. 655).

    3. The coda (mm. 551ff.) once again takes up the thematic configuration, but now almost didactically and directly, and separating the individual elements. This configuration is reduced to its harmonic essence. Unconnected but thematically penetrated E-flat major, D-flat major and C major sound fields are juxtaposed, each four measures long and with a decrescendo after a loud entry; the C major with the tremolo of the strings appears plebeian, crude even, and can be experienced almost physically. The important final phase of the formal process develops out of it. And now, in the coda, the function of the horns reaches its fulfillment. At first the horn calls appear seemingly from behind the stage (mm. 615ff.), but ultimately (from m. 631 on) the horn takes over, as a solo instrument, the thematic figure in its final form. The disruptive function of the chromatic halftone C#Db, is spent with the confrontation of the three harmonic levels E-flat-D-flat-C and the key of C major, accentuated by the orchestra. In the solo horn call, the melodic fragment now not only stops on the fifth (compare the introduction of this element after the recapitulation, also in the horn!) but the chromatic disruption fails to appear. However, this cleansing does not result in a rounded structural theme. Scott Burnham has shown correctly that this "last version" of the so-called main theme remains "harmonically open-ended" and that its direction is derived exclusively from the enormous increase in orchestral dynamics. The conclusion drawn from this position is that the first movement of the Eroica lacks a "theme" in the classical sense; there is no theme that first appears in incomplete form and then, in the coda, comes into its own. Rather, as Carl Dahlhaus has correctly stated, the thematic figure remains at the end of the movement what it was from the beginning: a function of the formal process, a sign of the passage of time, a vehicle of temporality. Toward the point of culmination of those processes, thematic four-bar phrases oscillating between tonic and dominant, resting on the fifth and the octave, respectively, as highest notes, are strung together, "propelling each other," while the orchestral apparatus becomes "productive" through a steadily increasing expansion (Gülke's description of Beethoven's Fifth). Thus the tendency to intensification increasingly takes over the entire orchestral collective and creates the apex of the movement, which far exceeds the third orchestral moment of intensity at the beginning of the exposition and the analogous section in the recapitulation (mm. 430ff.) This is followed now by the formulaic ending of the movement. The movement virtually could go on forever. Its telos is the future.

    4. But beyond that, this passage—introduced by the solo horn and providing the goal and fulfillment of the formal process—speaks a clear language. It is the musical image of a certain and concretely identifiable situation. There, in m. 631, the first horn enters, in a challenging fashion, with oboe and second horn joining in. Added is a rhythmically contoured counter-subject in the first violins that traverses back and forth across the tonal space—a swift counterpoint while the second violins accompany with typical chordal figurations. This constellation lasts for four measures—two times two—supplying first the tonic, then the dominant. This eight-measure model is repeated with an increasing orchestral apparatus (mm. 639ff): the thematic figure in the first violins and the three horns, a rapid counterpoint in the second violins, dissolved chordal accompaniment in the cellos (distinct from the bass line) and the second clarinet, harmonically filled out by the oboes, the first clarinet, then the flutes. The process is continued in a third eight-measure section (mm. 647ff.) using an expanded apparatus. The thematic figure now is played by all lower strings, from violas to bass, the counter subject by the entire woodwind section, supplemented by the horns and the syncopated first violins, the trumpets and timpani supply the rhythmic impulse with upbeat triads. All this is played in continuous crescendo. Finally, with m. 655, the intensification process leads into the fourth eight-measure section: full orchestra with expressive violin tremolos, the thematic figure shatteringly played above the timpani roll in the trumpets and horns, partially including the woodwinds, the running counterpoint in the heavy basses, everything now forte, with sforzato accents. It is noteworthy that the figurative aspect in the measures on the dominant (mm. 659ff.) recedes behind the sound of the full orchestral tutti. It is the orchestra as such, the collectivity and its unfolding, that functions as the agent and goal over 800 measures of this gigantic movement. In those four times eight measures and their concrete content, the "radical developmental form" reaches its first fulfillment.

    What functions here as the sound language of a symphonic orchestra can be described as revolutionary rhetoric, as a process of a collective coming together. After a long journey through many transitional stations, one important individual voice (the horn, m. 631) steps to the fore, as if challenging and pronouncing a thesis. Gradually, more and more voices and groups join in, agreeing, amalgamating, becoming part of a universal overarching whole. The idea of a grand, emphatic departure, of a "spiritual enthusiasm" (Hegel), seizes the orchestral collective. It is as if the music were speaking with a thousand tongues and, by doing so, becomes one single voice. The orchestra as allegory of the Revolution is what this symphony aims for at the end of the first movement; "the lava of revolution flows" here too, but as an idea, as a musical idea. From our perspective, looking back into history, it is no "delusion" to claim for the symphony, and especially for this one, that an "electrical and luminous flood of concepts and insights will pour forth from here to all nations of this earth, from here where the exalted human spirit rises free and brave like an eagle from the low and dark spheres toward the sunlit ocean of truth" (Campe). And so I add to Friedrich Schlegel's Athenäum Fragment and declare Beethoven's Third Symphony one of the "great tendencies of the era." The symphony is this great tendency in its time and through its time: in the time that entered into it as its era and whose historical example it represents as Sinfonia Eroica; and through the time which forms this work of art in a processual manner as (to use again Campe's words) a "torrential and overflowing stream of ideas."

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File created: 8/7/2007

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