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4 The War of the Romantics

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Chapter Summary

Franz Liszt's letter to a friend, written in 1854, expresses his fatigue from attacks on his compositions. As Liszt took his place as Kapellmeister in Weimar, his Romantic impulses were at last applied in the realm of creative invention: this composing subjectivity had been the impetus behind his adoption of Hungarian patriotism and German nationalist causes, and had produced works dedicated to both Hungarian and German audiences from the 1850s through the rest of his life. As an alternative to New German aesthetics, "autonomists", adherents of the symphonic tradition established by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, insisted on art music's non-exegetical essence and claimed it existed for its own sake, rather than functioning as a tool of aesthetic and/or moral development. This debate about musical form and function sparked the War of the Romantics, one of the most famous episodes in music history.

Keywords: Franz Liszt; German national identity; Hungarian patriotism; music history; War of the Romantics; Weimar



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