Neoclassicism in Music

January 1988
240 pages
6x9 in
ISBN: 9781878822734
Format: Paperback
University of Rochester Press

Neoclassicism in Music

From the Genesis of the Concept through the Schoenberg/Stravinsky Polemic

Scott Messing

The first historical and critical study of neoclassicism from the genesis of the concept in fin de siecleFrance in the 1870s through the Schoenberg/Stravinsky polemic. By the end of the nineteenth century the traits of "classicism" in music had become clearly established. This codification cast long shadows over contemporary artists, encouraging a movement away from order, continuity and tradition towards freedom, innovation and novelty - and the term neoclassicism made its first appearance.

This study, the first ever critical examination of "neoclassicism" in music, provides a broad cultural context for the investigation of its origins, then looks in turn at Wagner and the French reaction to him; Saint-Saens, d'Indy, Debussy, Ravel and their French contemporaries; Germany and France in the decade which includes the First World War, with special reference to Thomas Mann and Ferrucio Busoni, and to Jean Cocteau and the "New Simplicity"; and Igor Stravinsky, the composer most frequently cited in connection with this term.

Reprint; first published 1988.
Keywords: Music


Scott Messing is a good digger. He successfully unearths the cultural politics out of which nouveau classicisme (in German, Klassizitat) began to emerge - not as nostalgia, and long before the Great War... He demonstrates the connections between (neo)classicism and youth culture, (neo)classicism and cultural elitism, (neo)classicism and authoritarianism, (neo)classicism and the politics of exclusion. He knows how (neo)classicism relates to "decadence." His book, in short, is a breakthrough in culturally informed music historiography. The fact that in five years it has not managed to attract interest commensurate with its deserts...[is largely] the result of some long-standing academic biases. --NINETEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC REVIEW [Richard Taruskin]

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