Abstract

This essay highlights the political context of the influence of German "serious" music in the United States, notably the German Reich's interest in American music life: the preponderance of German music on American symphony stages went hand in hand with the Kaiser's agenda of Germany's global expansion. After Germany's unification, in 1871, German cultural diplomacy aimed increasingly to convince Anglo-American elites of the superiority of Kultur to win political allies in the United States. A steady influx of German-born conductors such as Arthur Nikisch and Karl Muck spurred the reception of German music in the United States. In their efforts to spread the tunes of Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms German musicians seized on Victorian Americans' growing concern with "emotion." The performance of pieces like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony established German serious music as the superior language of feeling, and it conveyed an emotion filling audiences with awe for the superiority not just of German art but of Germany in general (a process I describe as "emotional elective affinity"). In retreating to a preference for classical and romantic music, American audiences fulfilled the objectives of the Imperial government's cultural diplomacy. For the art of the German masters inspired precisely the respect for German greatness, Heimat, and emotionalism that William II wanted to convey, and their legacy lasted much longer than the Kaiser's Reich.

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 585-613
Launched on MUSE
2003-03-31
Open Access
No
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