Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music: Singing Devils and Distant Sounds by Peter Franklin (review)
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Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music: Singing Devils and Distant Sounds. By Peter Franklin. pp. xvii + 197. (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2014. £44.95. ISBN 978-0-520-28039-7.)

Types of works and audience that are normally considered musically 'feminine' figure large in Peter Franklin's Bloch lectures book: the pictorial (both the symphonic and the cinematic), and the masses and their perceived excessive emotions. While at first the repertories covered in this volume might appear disparate—in genre, media, and style—they are tied together by the cultural politics that surround them and their 'modes of reception' (p. 54). Not surprisingly in this light, Franklin engages deeply with musicological writings on gender that have emerged since the 1980s and 1990s, including those by Susan McClary, Catherine Clément, and Lawrence Kramer. In many ways, this book sums up Franklin's career as it continues the anti-high-modernist projects that he instigated with The Idea of Music: Schoenberg and Others (London, 1985). No doubt because these essays were originally delivered orally, they are often illustrated entertainingly with Franklin's personal musical vignettes to elucidate his points on audience reception as well as cultural politics. His first, secondary school, experience of Mahler ('did I ever recover?' (p. 13)); his doctoral defence with Georg Knepler (Carl Dahlhaus's East German counterpart) in what was East Berlin (p. 5); and his experience of attending Franz Schreker's rarely performed Der Schmied von Gent against the backdrop of anti-fascist resistance in Dresden on the 65th anniversary of the Allied bombing (p. 154). From this somewhat personal position (but are we not all 'objects as much as subjects of legitimate political-historical study'? (p. 5)), Franklin interrogates the often caricatured image of Romanticism that musicology has commonly portrayed, and looks to engage with Romanticism as a more complex, multilayered, and expansive concept.

Yet for readers who are interested in ongoing discussions about musical modernism(s), Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music is a valuable tool. In his final chapter 'The Bitter Truth of Modernism: A Late-Romantic Story', Franklin focuses on Schreker's operas and continues his long-running effort alongside those such as Christopher Hailey, Anthony Beaumont, and the conductor James Conlon to engage with composers who were contemporaries of Schoenberg and often enjoyed more success with Viennese audiences than did the 'Second Viennese School'. Franklin questions the linear historical narrative of musical modernism, the kind of straightforward musical-historical 'development' still proffered in many musicological accounts. Should we continue to believe that other kinds of music fade into oblivion after 1913, when Stravinsky premiered his Le Sacre du printemps and Schoenberg had his 'Skandelkonzert' (p. 141)? However, rather than simply rescuing certain composers from being forgotten, Franklin is critical and self-aware of what his own sympathy for what he terms late-romantic music might mean and why, and not merely because he is conscious of how 'serious' musicologists of twentieth-century music are discouraged from listening to and even enjoying the repertories in question. [End Page 659] After carefully contextualizing the kind of polemical language—'self-indulgent', 'overblown', 'decadent', 'maximal' (p. 28)—that is still often applied to this music, Franklin refuses to use such words (except for 'decadent', in quotation marks), and therefore denies them ongoing meaning.

The long-running debate about the absolute versus the programmatic—and the gendered language often found in such discussions—is central to Franklin's thinking, on both the symphony and opera. It is not simply because Franklin wants us to resist the sort of blanket hermeneutic that has often been applied to the composers and musical works covered in this book (the 'maximal, feminine, ''typically Italian'', or whatever' (p. 133)). Rather, he problematizes conventionally masculine-gendered values, delving into what has been traditionally considered feminine, and opening up interpretative potential by taking such ideas seriously. For instance, Franklin is suspicious of form, which grounds and structures the musical absolute, and he critiques not only the forms that Berg emphatically asserts in Wozzeck, but also the 'rotational form' devised by James Hepokoski to rationalize Sibelius (p. 78). Indeed, in explaining how women were believed to think in...