Untitled

[Classical music and German classicism]

This project offers a bit of a paradox: it is still without shape or title, but it is based on more than five years of public writing on my blog about these themes, and from a certain point of view it would require only serious selection and rewriting without a major new beginning or rethinking. Also, at least among these projects, it is one that speaks to non-specialist audiences and indeed it was born from my obsession of doing classical music a favor from being in-depth while avoiding philological, bar-to-bar analysis. In other words, I was not born or trained as a musicologist, but the crucial answers to Schubert's Winterreise (“Wonderful old man, should I go with you? Will you play my songs?”) do not come from technical arrangements in the bass pedal, but from an understanding of the German feudal order, of Alpine trails, and Romantic ghost stories. The same is true of the sonata form: what were the Rhine or the Black Forest meant to defend? Why would Mahler situate himself as a composer in a spectrum of continuity with the great Russian Dostoevsky?

Without giving out too many ideas on how I will rework these pieces for publication, this project, ideally, goes from Bach's Leipzig to turn-of-the-century Vienna; a major role is played by Mendelssohn's music, and secondarily by an eccentric view of Beethoven as a master of irony, as well as by visions of Haydn and Mozart within a courtly system of trade and performance; the writers are important, too: from Goethe's pliant approach to natural history to Adorno's brilliantly defiant thinking around the phonograph, through Benjamin's warm validation of the so-called minor Romantics and their wondrous calendar sketches.