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Music in the Nineteenth Century



This volume covers what is often called the romantic period of music history. Like most terms of periodization, it is a misnomer. Music did have an important romantic period, but it began in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and its great protagonist was Beethoven. Most of Beethoven's work is covered in volume 2 of the Oxford History, but he remains a vital presence throughout the present volume, as the forefather to whom practically every nineteenth-century creative musician claimed kinship. By the second third of the nineteenth century, however, romanticism was only one of a number of important trends—some, like nationalism, closely allied with romanticism; others, like realism, quite opposed to it—that jostled one another in the burgeoning European musical scene.

That burgeoning is itself an important story. The nineteenth century, the century of urbanization and industrialization, witnessed the beginnings of mass musical dissemination. The Industrial Revolution transformed the printing and distribution of sheet music. The huge growth in the population of cities gave rise to a new class of domestic music consumers as well as to the concert and opera worlds we still inhabit, in which great numbers of people throng together to experience performances. Large concert halls, subscription series, concert touring, arts management—all of these had their start in the nineteenth century, as did daily newspaper criticism, academic music scholarship, and musical historiography. To study the social practice of music in the nineteenth century is to study the early history of our musical present.

The nineteenth century was also the century in which the literate practice of music spread far and wide into territories, like America and Russia, that had not previously been productive participants in that tradition. The relationship between these outlying areas and the traditional seats of education and innovation for literate music is complex and, in the true sense of the word, dialectical (i.e., mutually transforming). The last section of the last chapter (“National Monuments”), which brings the account of this particular development to its conclusion, is new, specially written for the present edition of the History. Added partly to rectify the sparse coverage or omission (acknowledged in the preface to the first edition) of several well-known composers, and to provide an appropriate context for them, this new section continues the international survey of late nineteenth-century symphonic music into Britain and Scandinavia and also brings to a close the history of national symphonic “schools.” For this reason, it spills over into the twentieth century, at times very far indeed. That spillover is a deliberate reminder that the history of art music in Europe and America, like the history of any cultural phenomenon of comparable scope, is not a single story, but rather a congeries of many narratives, and that there is no one time line along which all may be simultaneously recounted or observed. The histories of various genres and localities are often asynchronous, and the continuation of chapter 14 past the arbitrary cutoff marked by the turn of century provides a good opportunity to demonstrate and underscore the point.

R. T.

September 2008

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Citation (APA):
(n.d.). . In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 23 Apr. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-miscMatter-015008.xml
Citation (Chicago):
"." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 23 Apr. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-miscMatter-015008.xml