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Music in the Nineteenth Century


CHAPTER 6 Critics
Richard Taruskin
The Limits of Music

fig. 6-11 Execution of Louis XVI by guillotine, 1793 (anonymous engraving, late eighteenth century).

The Limits of Music

ex. 6-9 Hector Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique, IV, mm. 174-end

The comic literalism of the ending to the March to the Scaffold gives us our opportunity, before turning to the symphony's wholly fantastic concluding movement, briefly to compare romantic theory and practice. When wearing his critic's rather than his composer's hat, Berlioz was known to rail at literal depiction as a lapse of style or taste, and a transgression against the true spirit of romanticism. In a fascinating essay of 1837, “De l'Imitation musicale” (“On imitation in music,” or as aptly paraphrased by its translator, Jacques Barzun, “The limits of music”), he tried to formulate a romantic theory of musical depiction, supporting it with examples, both positive and negative, from the literature. It is easy to see that the article was motivated not only by the failure of previous writers (such as Giuseppe Carpani, whose biography of Haydn furnished the immediate pretext) to come up with an adequate theory, but also by the criticism that the Symphonie fantastique had been receiving from conservative musicians, in particular from François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871), the influential editor of the Revue musicale, the leading Paris music magazine.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 6 Critics." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2023. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-006007.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 6 Critics. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 6 Dec. 2023, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-006007.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 6 Critics." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 6 Dec. 2023, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-006007.xml
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