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Seeing Mahler: Music and the Language of Antisemitism in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. K. N. Knittel. Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. 218 pp. ISBN 978-0-7546-6372-0
Reviewed by Karen Painter
Seeing Mahler: Music and the Language of Antisemitism in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna expands upon K. N. Knittel’s pathbreaking work on the reception of Mahler’s conducting, published in 19th Century Music in 1995 and 2006. The book’s trajectory has a clear rhetorical strategy, moving from explicit and offensive accounts of the Jew’s body to, in my view, speculation on how musical discourse served the cause of antisemitism, while concluding with ruminations on anti-Jewish prejudice in the United States today. Ironically, the resistance Mahler faced as a Jew (or merely perceived that he faced, Daniel Jütte has recently argued in a paper on Jews at court) in aspiring to become director of the Court Opera, is all but ignored. Rather, Knittel moves into the important but murky subject of criticizing music because it sounds Jewish. Read the rest of this entry »
The Schenker Project: Culture, Race and Music Theory in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. Nicolas Cook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. xi + 355 pp. ISBN 978-0-1997-4429-9
The cultural developments of fin-de-siècle Vienna have been the subject of several historical monographs. Alan Janik and Stephen Toulmin’s Wittgenstein’s Vienna, originally published in 1973, was followed by Carl Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture in 1980. Works by Marsha Rozenblit, Steven Beller, and Robert Wistrich focused attention on the Jews of Vienna, emphasizing the importance of the Jewish contribution to Viennese culture. One thing that these works hold in common is their inclusion of Viennese Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg, and omission of his contemporary, Viennese Jewish music theorist Heinrich Schenker. This is all the more perplexing when one considers how influential Schenkerian theory was to become in the United States. Schenker, unlike Schoenberg, did not convert to Christianity: he remained a loyal (if concealed) Jew throughout his life, and he somewhat oddly seems to have embraced both his Jewishness and German nationalism. Nicolas Cook’s book provides some hints as to how this worldview developed, and more importantly, it restores Schenker to his rightful place in fin-de-siècle Viennese culture. However, the book falls short of accounting for the rather peculiar omission of Schenker from most previous studies on the period. Read the rest of this entry »
Judaism Musical and Unmusical. Michael P. Steinberg. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. 270 pp. ISBN 978-0-2267-7195-3
In Judaism Musical and Unmusical, Michael P. Steinberg takes the reader on a journey through predominantly but not exclusively Central European Jewish history and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at times privileging music as a focal point of cultural discourse. The eight essays in this volume, most of which have been published before, are loosely connected musings about the different facets of modernity and Judentum, and involve the concepts of memory, secularity, and aesthetics, among others. In each chapter Steinberg weaves different threads together, from art to psychoanalysis, from architecture to music. Steinberg’s book, which in a larger sense is a discourse about identity and Judaism, begins with an essay on Edward Said and his propositions of Jewish identity, and follows with individual case studies of known intellectuals and their work. Steinberg traces the subject of Judaism in Sigmund Freud’s late classic Moses and Monotheism and in the writings of Henry James, Eduard Fuchs, and Walter Benjamin; and he explores the intellectualism of Italian Jewish historian Arnaldo Momigliano. Further chapters center on the artist Charlotte Salomon and her Life? or Theater? and Leonard Bernstein in Vienna. The journey ends in Berlin with a critique of its Jewish Museum and an assessment of some recent scholarship on German Jewish subjects, which cannot compensate for the absence of a full bibliography at the end of the book.