BEETHOVEN AND THE SOUND OF REVOLUTION IN VIENNA, 1792–1814
The Historical Journal
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Jones, R. (2014). BEETHOVEN AND THE SOUND OF REVOLUTION IN VIENNA, 1792–1814. The Historical Journal, 57 (4), 947-971. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0018246x14000405
Beethoven the revolutionary is fading from history. Ossified by the Romantic tradition and, under the pressure of recent revision, reconsidered as conservative and prone to power worship, Beethoven's music has been drained of its radical essence. Yet his compositions also evoked the sonic impact of revolution – its aesthetic of natural violence and terrifying sublime – and so created an aural image of revolutionary action. Through stylistic appropriations of Luigi Cherubini and others, Beethoven imported the rhetorical tropes of French revolutionary composition to the more culturally conservative environment of Vienna. But where the music of revolutionary Paris accompanied concerted political action, the Viennese music that echoed its exhortative rhetoric played to audiences that remained politically mute. This inertia was the result of both a Viennese mode of listening that encouraged a solely internalized indulgence in revolution, and a Beethovenian musical rhetoric that both goaded and satisfied latent political radicalism. Far from rallying the public to the figurative barricades, then, the radical content of Beethoven's music actually helped satiate – and thereby stymie – the outward expression of rebellion in Vienna. This article is a bid to reaffirm the revolutionary in Beethoven.
The research for this article was completed thanks to the kind financial assistance of the Wolfson Foundation.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0018246x14000405
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/284102