Journal of Music Criticism 1 (2017)

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Registered Tribunale di Lucca – RG n. 1323/2017 | ISSN 2532-9995 | © Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini. All rights reserved.
  • Claves estéticas de la primera recepción de la teoría wagneriana en Madrid

José Ignacio Suárez García (Universidad de Oviedo) | suarezignacio@uniovi.es

Abstract
In the 1860s, the Spanish musical criticism proposed an absolute opposition between two systems, which they considered exclusive: Italian opera and Wagnerian music drama. The debate raised the issue of what relationship there should be between music and text in the genre of opera, i.e. which of the two disciplines should prevail in composition. Italian opera gave total prevalence music over text, thus reflecting an «idealist conception» of art. On the opposite side was Wagner’s point of view, who put the text in a position of superiority, since he believed that music should always be subjected to the requirements of the text to achieve a credible, «realistic» show. This linked his ideas with Gluck’s, meaning that music must support the text in order to reinforce its dramatic authenticity. However, in the 1870s there was a change produced by the influence of a philosophical current imported to Spain, Krausism (from the thinking of German Karl Christian Friedrich Krause). The krausist followers, who craved for the achievement of a Spanish opera,addressed the issue from the perspective of harmonisation of opponents, seeking to resolve the opposition between tradition and modernity, nationhood and universality. Concerning the latter, they tried to harmonise the different operatic schools, and used Richard Wagner as an example, as they considered him as the most genuine and avant-garde German representative of opera-making at the time, and the one most likely to be taken into account to create a national genre.

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  • Mussolini, la critica musicale italiana e i festival della Società Internazionale di Musica Contemporanea in Italia negli anni Venti

Davide Ceriani (Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ) | ceriani@rowan.edu

Abstract
Following the end of World War I, Europe experienced an efflorescence of cultural exchange. The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) provided an important forum to exhibit the most recent musical developments in Europe and in the Americas. The ISCM meetings shifted from country to country each year. In the 1920s Italy hosted two of them: the first in Venice in 1925, and the second in Siena in 1928. In this essay, I discuss how the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini used these two meetings to promote a positive image of himself and of the fascist movement. After coming to power in October 1922 and establishing a dictatorship in January 1925, Mussolini needed to bolster his status as an open-minded patron of the modern arts in order to garner a reputation for the fascist regime as an “enlightened” form of government. His patronage to the ISCM gatherings hosted in Italy provided a vehicle to achieve both goals. Yet, the critics disparaged nearly all pieces written by foreign composers that incorporated the most notable new musical vocabularies: atonality, microtonality, and jazz. Not attempting to seriously engage with these repertories, they failed to offer an objective assessment of these pieces. This is perplexing, given that the mission statement of the ISCM was to promote the most groundbreaking works, an objective which the festivals’ organizer, Alfredo Casella, intended to preserve. By exploring these two points, I demonstrate that the Italian critics, in part fueled by the political establishment, used the Venice and Siena festivals to achieve goals that contradicted the purposes of the ISCM. Rather than bolstering the cause of contemporary music, these two meetings strengthened the reputation of Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship, and served as an opportunity for Italian music critics to voice their opinions against repertories that did not line up with their conservative tastes.

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A Tale of Two Critics; or, A Wolf at the Door: Recovering a Critical Dialogue between Eduard Hanslick and Hugo Wolf

Timothy R. McKinney (Baylor University, Waco, TX) | Timothy_McKinney@baylor.edu

Abstract
As a young man whose dream of becoming an eminent progressive composer remained unfulfilled as yet, Hugo Wolf ardently and brashly defended the New German School in the concert reviews he wrote for the Wiener Salonblattin 1884-1887, pitting himself against the conservative Viennese music establishment in general and increasingly against highly influential critic Eduard Hanslick in particular. Though Wolf began to quote Hanslick’s reviews and attack him by name in 1886, it generally is thought that Hanslick did not respond to Wolf’s harangues in his own critical writing; indeed, to my knowledge he did not mention Wolf in the Neue Freie Presseuntil his well-known review of a Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde concert containing two of Wolf’s works in 1894. However, much of the commentary on Hanslick’s critical writings has been based upon the collections that he selected from his total corpus and redacted for republication. When all of Hanslick’s original Neue Freie Pressereviews from 1884-1887 are laid beside Wolf’s in chronological sequence, one begins to see subtle responses to Wolf and catch glimpses of a dialogue between artist and critic that speaks to the role and professional responsibilities of criticism in addition to aesthetic issues. The current study focuses on recovering this dialogue and examining its stimuli and connotations, from early oblique fencing over the Brahms/Wagner controversy and the concerts of the visiting Meiningen Orchestra under Hans von Bülow in 1884, through Wolf’s infamous direct assault after the 1886 Viennese premiere of Brahms’s fourth symphony, and continuing until Wolf abandoned his critical career in April of the following year. In Wolf’s case in particular, his personal circumstances and his inability to achieve recognition as a composer very much informed his critical and philosophical stances. While Hanslick was not writing of Wolf’s own music during Wolf’s time as a critic, it is nonetheless from this perspective that Wolf’s attacks on Hanslick are properly understood. Their vehemence and personal nature were motivated by Wolf’s own personal life-or-death struggle as a composer against the dictates of conservative taste as much as by the general Brahms/Wagner controversy.

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Che cosa hanno da dire i compositori in merito alla musica per film? Il caso «Modern Music»

Marida Rizzuti (Università degli Studi di Torino) | marida.rizzuti@gmail.com

Abstract
The essay addresses the relationship between composers and music critics, specifically the role of the composer when he becomes a music critic of other composers. Case study is the quarterly Modern Musicpublished between February 1924 and Autumn 1946. Modern Musicis iconic because it aimed at informing and updating American and European professionals and audience about the new languages and styles of 20th-century music. The quarterly was a milestone for the debate on new forms of music, and especially for film music. Through articles and reviews Modern Musichas become a forum on contemporary music events. Attention to film music and, in general, to sound cinema is attested by the column ‘on the Film Front’, in which composing methods for film, and scores written for films – produced between United States, Europe and Soviet Union – were discussed. Most reviews were written by George Antheil and Paul Bowles, but Aaron Copland has played a central role in the development of Modern Music, especially focusing on composers such as George Antheil, Charles Ives and Darius Milhaud, as well as dealing with jazz structures and with composers working also outside Hollywood. The articles and reviews published on Modern Musichave assumed a theoretical character for the genre film music. A systematic study of these has allowed me to highlight the relationship between the poetics of the composer extensors of the writings from the one side and the film medium from the other side, observing how the medium has exerted an influence on the composers’ poetics and how the work in this field has been understood and interpreted by the composers themselves. The material has been questioned through multiple perspectives: observing the recurrence that theoretical writings have had on compositional techniques, looking at sociological aspects linked to the relationship between composers and productive structures, which were for them unusual, and ultimately establishing a relationship on the aesthetic niveau between the composers and the new medium, the sound cinema. This study has found within the Exilforschung’s study a natural framework, because addressing composers as critics of other composers has highlighted how working for cinema and dealing with cinema’s productive structures has been inscribed within the framework of building a new identity by those European composers who have emigrated to the United States, and who have worked intensively in the cinema. The focus is limited to the theoretical writings, since this aspect is still underdeveloped by the current bibliography. Through reviews, new ways of looking at the work of composers for cinema have been highlighted, and we have been able to observe in more detail how their approach to composing music for cinema has changed the way they conceive music and the compositional act tout court. The most innovative aspect is that the music critic is himself a composer, and therefore music criticism has affected parameters left – until then – in the background.

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«Brother Criticus»: Stravinsky ‘the Serialist’ against Music Criticism

Massimiliano Locanto (Università degli Studi di Salerno) | mlocanto@unisa.it

Abstract
Stravinsky’s struggle with music critics has become legendary. It began early in Stravinsky’s life, at the time of his works for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Its origins and motivations are likely to be found in the rather unfavourable reviews of Stravinsky’s ballets scores in his motherland, and in the composer’s need to push the musical criticism outside Russia in a useful direction for his ends. Many of Stravinsky’s writings and interviews that appeared between the two wars show that the composer’s contempt for the critics was closely related to his need to establish a direct relationship with the European public. Worried about the possible influence musical criticism could exercise, he tried to get total control over the reception of his works. By using as leverage the typically modernist – also found in Schoenberg, for example – idea that competence in writing about music consists in knowing what the composer knows,  and that this latter is the most qualified person to talk about his own music, he not only tried to impose his authority on musical criticism, but also to occupy its place, and to take for himself its role. This paper focuses the attention on the continuities and changes that this attitude toward music criticism underwent in the last period of Stravinsky’s life, following his ‘serial turn’. In his writings of this period, written in collaboration with Robert Craft, his controversy against music criticism reached its climax. Eminent music critics, such as Winthrop Sargeant, of The New Yorkermagazine, or the musicologist and New Herald Tribunecolumnist Paul Henry Lang were accused of ignorance, incompetence, and «gratuitous malice» by Stravinsky. However, Stravinsky’s increased sensitivity to criticism was largely due to the peculiarities of the American post-war cultural context. He probably understood that, at a time when composers were continuously looking for novelties in compositional technique and musical language, audiences was turning to critics to get explanations and judgments about this increasingly difficult music. In this way the role of the critics as intermediaries between composers and listeners became more crucial than before. Stravinsky probably recognized that ‘words about music’ could serve an unprecedented role in shaping the reception of his serial compositions. He probably saw in the scientific ‘objectivity’ of the music theorist, which in those years was gaining ever greater prestige in the American music academy, a possible bulwark against the ‘arbitrariness’ of the kind of music criticism he had always hated. His involvement with academic specialists in theory of serial composition, such as Milton Babbitt and Claudio Spies can be considered as a new attempt to impose his authority on music criticism with the complicity of the music-theoretical academic establishment.

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