Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Paperback)
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. The central statement of the work, that "all men will be brothers," captured the sentiment of those who saw a brighter future for the newly reunited nation. This now-iconic performance is a palpable example of "musical monumentality" - a significant concept that underlies our cultural and ideological understanding of Western 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, one of the brightest young stars in the field takes on the task in Music and Monumentality, an elegant, thorough treatment that will serve as a foundation for all future discussion in the area. Rehding sets his focus on the main players of the period within the Austro-German repertoire - Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler - as he unpacks a twofold definition of musical monumentality. In the conventional sense, monumentality is a stylistic property often described as 'grand, ' 'uplifting, ' and 'sublime, ' rife with overpowering brass chorales, sparking 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. Through a clear theoretical lens, Rehding examines how grand sound effects are strategically employed with the view to overwhelming audiences, how supposedly immutable musical halls of fame change over time, how challenging musical works are domesticated, how the highest cultural achievements are presented in immediately consumable form - in short, how German music emerges as a unified cultural and musical brand. Music and Monumentality is an important addition to the libraries of students and scholars of Western musicology and music theory, as well as all readers and listeners interested in music theory, nationalism, and the nineteenth century.
Alexander Rehding is the Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University, an affiliate of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and an associate at the Center for European Studies. His research specializes in nineteenth-century music and in history of music theory. He is author of Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought.