Registered Tribunale di Lucca – RG n. 1323/2017 | ISSN 2532-9995 | © Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini. All rights reserved.
  • Sounds of Decline: Cultural Criticism in the Dutch Debate

Floris Meens (Radboud University) |


This article identifies and analyses traces of cultural criticism in the debate on the future of classical music in Dutch newspapers between c. 1890-1930. This debate focused on the design, programming and ticket sales of concert halls, the content of the music — especially the influence of modernism and non-European styles and genres — and the opportunities and threats posed by the new media. The article clarifies that the participants in this debate were mostly representatives of the traditional field of classical music. They tried to protect their bastion against threats they perceived and interpreted as symptoms of a more general cultural decline. The critics compared styles, genres, periods, places and techniques in a discourse that was full of categorisation, and semantically inspired by medicine and psychology («sick», «healthy» and «dying»; «nerves» and «defused»; «body» vs. «soul»), the economic sciences («decline» of «value»), warfare («enemy», «struggle», «victims», «peace»), capitalism and sport («competition», «winners», «loss»). The critics portrayed Europeans as overworked, overexcited and tired, but above all as creatures of the soul, who now faced physical and mental threats. As the article observes, the commentators themselves were suffering from an unacknowledged chronic cultural hypochondria and a fear of domination (by the masses, by non-European ‘others’, and by technology), that contained traces of conservatism, social Darwinism, xenophobia and racism.

  • ‘Slawische’ Programmmusik? Bedřich Smetanas und Antonín Dvořáks Nationalität im Fokus der Wiener Presse (1887-1918)

Bianca Schumann (Universität Wien) |


No other debate polarised the Viennese concert-going public in Vienna in the 19th century more than the one over the aesthetic value of symphonic programme music. The dispute, which divided the musical minds of the time, was fought out largely in the Viennese press. In numerous newspapers, critics argued in frequently polemical tones over this new genre as it was becoming established in the 1850s. Concert reviewers did not limit themselves to appraising a programmatic work’s musical architecture, but also questioned the genre’s aesthetic value and the composer’s artistic ability. In judging the latter, the composer’s national identity or religious convictions were considered significant. This article’s central concern is to examine this arena of journalistic dispute from the perspective of reception history, focussing on a selective ‘extra-musical aesthetic’ criterion. The aim is to understand the driving force behind the nationality question in the debate on symphonic programme music. It seeks to clarify whether and to what extent the increasing threat to the cultural and political supremacy of the Germans in the 19th century, including the challenges to the Habsburg monarchy, influenced the reception of nationalist symphonic programme music by the Slavic composers Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. The investigation begins in 1887 with the first Viennese performance of Smetana’s Vltava’and extends to 1918, the end of the First World War, when the Habsburg Monarchy was dissolved and the First Czechoslovak Republic founded.

  • Musica andina, noia mortale: fortuna di un infortunio critico (1977-2017)

Stefano Gavagnin (Imla, Istituto per lo studio della Musica Latinoamericana) |


Upon their arrival in Italy, where they would live in exile for fifteen years after the military coup of September 1973, the musicians of the Chilean group Inti-Illimani found an environment of solidarity, and very willing to listen to them. The Italian public was sensitive both to the aspects of political solidarity and to the aesthetic novelty brought by the Chilean song, reckoning the Inti-Illimani a success whose dimensions were unprecedented in the field of political song and folk roots. There were, however, expressions of annoyance and even rejection at «an unprecedented case of noise jam, which accumulated until it suddenly deflated» (Carrera 2014). The most famous was the one pronounced by the Bolognese singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla in a verse that would soon become a recurring topos of criticism: «Andean music, what a deadly boredom». This remark, which in a way could have been filed as an occasional critical ‘accident’, has instead enjoyed a long fortune, becoming a leitmotif capable of bringing together people who are ideologically distant from each other. Through the sound image of Chilean/Andean music, the topos actually pointed to an entire socio-cultural sphere politically oriented to the left, which had identified with that image to varying degrees. This article traces its trajectory of more than forty years to explore its underlying motivations, following the hermeneutic model proposed by ethnomusicologist Josep Martí for the study of contempt and rejection judgments in the musical field.

  • Entre la responsabilidad social y los afectos: el papel de la prensa en el surgimiento de Alfredo Zitarrosa, cantor popular uruguayo

Marita Fornaro Bordolli (Universidad de la República, Uruguay) |



This article presents the results of the first research carried out in Uruguay on popular music criticism. It focuses on the role of the general press in the emergence of Alfredo Zitarrosa, one of the country’s most outstanding singers and composers, active between the 1960s and 1980s, whose repertoire is based on traditional genres. The artist had to go into exile in 1976, persecuted by the dictatorship installed in the country between 1973 and 1985. The role of the press in his emergence as an artist and his rapid consolidation is analysed; the period studied runs from 1965 to 1969, the year in which he began to be censored. The following thematic nuclei are considered, identified as the most important through the study of hundreds of opinion articles, chronicles and interviews, as well as articles and other pieces written by Zitarrosa himself: the physical description of the singer; the artist’s opinions about the process of creating songs; discussions about the folkloric character of his work, with intense intervention of the artist himself through interviews; his ideological and political position; his reflections on the economic rights of artists in Uruguay. I discuss the role of the press in the early characterisation of the singer, the importance of the interviews, the difference in Zitarrosa’s own discursive style in his role as interviewee and as writer; the evolution of opinions as the country’s political climate changes, which strains opinions and motivates, finally, his censorship and subsequent exile.

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