The article is an attempt at critical revision of the theory of national art, based on a case study of representation of the national culture in the Tatar classical-academic music. The author traces the development of possibility to represent a national charter in music back to the musical theory of the Enlightenment. He maintains that in the epoch of Romanticism stylistic representations of national cultures in the musical art were ontologized and an assumption appeared that any art should be national, despite the esthetic autonomy and universalism of modern art. The author states that the Soviet practice of organization of national musical schools hinged both on the romantic concept of national art and principle of realism. However, he observes that the process of modernization of national musical traditions brought about the conflict between the autonomous esthetics of modern classical music and utilitarian and realistic vision of the national musical art. The conflict was due to the growing complexity of the musical language, which was developing along the lines of autonomous esthetics of high art, thus transcending the limits of realism and boundaries of the national culture. The article concludes that the crisis of modern classical-academic music coincides with the moment when the theory of musical art is about to abandon the long-held assumption about the intrinsic link between art and national culture.