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Title: Schubert, Tragedy and German Philhellenism
Authors: Noble, Jonathan
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: A strong cultural bond between Germany and Greece was forged by intellectuals from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. The ancient Greeks were felt to provide lessons for contemporary aesthetics and art with their emphasis on the beautiful and the natural. Born and educated in Vienna, Franz Peter Schubert digested many of these philhellenic ideals that migrated south to Austria. Their influence can be found in many of his Lieder on mythological themes, as has been recognised by several recent writers. I believe, however, that the influence also extended to instrumental works, and indeed that his musical forms cannot be fully understood outside the context of German philhellenism. The centrality of philhellenism to cultural life cannot be overestimated, inspiring German poetry and prose for two centuries, and its influence on music emerges in this study as similarly pervasive. This study traces the influence on Schubert’s music of the early philhellenic ideal of ‘noble simplicity and quiet grandeur’ initiated by Johann Winckelmann and found in the music of Christoph Willibald Gluck. Such influence can be found in his ‘Tragic’ Symphony. It also traces the influence of the particular strand of philhellenism that flourished during Schubert’s lifetime – one shared by philosophers of the German idealist school, and one which focused on the particular art-form of Greek tragedy. It is this strand which supplies a further reading of the ‘Tragic’ Symphony D417 as well as readings of Schubert’s three Piano Sonatas in A minor D537, D784 and D845. The readings draw on the common but varied strands of idealism, ranging from the idealist view of tragedy as a conflict between man and fate, to Friedrich Schelling’s description of the genre as epic-lyric, to Friedrich Schiller’s notion of tragedy as the overcoming of sublime terror, to Georg Wilhelm Hegel’s view of tragedy as a dialectical process. The sonata forms which Schubert employed in these movements are analysed through the lens of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s Sonata Theory, and the interaction of these forms with the philosophical ideas of German philhellenism emerges as a locus of abundant hermeneutic meaning.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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