Aesthetics and Ideology in the Fin-de-Siecle Mozart Revival

Botstein, Leon

What remains from the fin-de-siecle Mozart revival is, of course, its aesthetic influence on twentieth-century neoclassicism and modernism, particularly within the tradition of the Second Viennese School. Despite the fantastic commercial popularity that Mozart's music now enjoys, from the historian's perpective the turn to Mozart in the early twentieth century constituted an effort to revive the claims among many musicians on behalf of a model of purely musical hearing and listening. A premium on form and procedures of musical development within works of music-on structural devices overtly detached from the sort of extramusical illustration associated with Wagner-became a hallmark of much twentieth-century concert music. The turn away from the associative musical strategies of late Romanticism helped make much of twentieth-century music less accessible and therefore less popular. Wagnerism held the key to the mass audience. Therefore, from the vantage point of the late twentieth century, the rediscovery of Mozart during the early 1900s helped lead, on the one hand, to the most extreme deification and dissemination of Mozart and his music within the museum of music, and, on the other (albeit indirectly, through the medium of modernist advocates of theories of absolute music) to the relative marginalization of contemporary music and musical modernism in our own time.



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Columbia University
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February 6, 2015