From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:
…. There are 27 tracks on this album and not one of them is dull.
Read on here
The idea of functional austerity which was at the heart of the Bauhaus movement and which led to the devastating ugliness of the ‘modern city’, was born in Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century, when the city was overrich in beauty and ornament – mostly 17C, 18C and 19C architecture – and when ornament was seen, by the then avantgardists, as representing the dominant bourgeois class, which was considered conservative and reactionary, stopping all development towards improvement of society. In 1913 the architect Adolf Loos wrote his influential essay ‘Ornament and Crime’….
…. after having designed, in 1909, the notorious Michaelerhaus, which did away with the ‘immoral’ refinements of traditional decoration:
The ‘new functionalism’ (form follows function) was entirely politically motivated and its sources thoroughly neurotic, ripe for Freud’s suffering-drenched divan, located nearby. Namely, decoration, beauty, refinement, artistic elaboration are also functions, but not material funtions. They symbolize the relationships as perceived by the human eye and heart. The entire Bauhaus movement and everything that followed in its wake was (and still is) thoroughly materialistic and thus, anti-civilisational.
Schoenberg was strongly influenced by Loos’ theories about function (= morally good) and decoration/ornament (= morally bad). How is this reflected in music? Avoid padding and pattern making, and make everything functional. So, no flesh on the bones, but offer only bones. Hence the constipated music of 12-tone music where everything is ‘functional’ because being derived from the series. Even in the early First Chamber Symphony Schoenberg tried to make everything ‘functional’ with the result that the textures are over-written and too dense. Ironically, by trying to arrive at a spiritualized music without the ‘debris’ of non-functional, sensual ornament, the result was a thoroughly materialist sound art without any spiritual or psychological dimension. Which explains the ‘florishing’ of modernism in the last century, which is so much easier to produce than music.
Hence the similarity of character between the Parisian quarter La Défense and the Boulezbian aesthetic.
Thus says Beckmesser.
You locate poor old Beckmesser at the wrong side of the divide between musicians and illiterati. Beckmesser was the avantgardist of the opera as can be clearly heard in his serenade:
Why do you write things like “17th century architecture” in Vienna which are clearly not true. Much of the architecture of Vienna is neo-classical dating from the late 18th century and into the 19th century. And the ascetic of this architecture was to avoid a great deal of decorative detail while concentrating on “classical form”.
The ascetic of Bauhaus, similarly, argues for a simplicity of design emphasising function while using new ‘modern’ materials. It is a kind of “return to classicism with new materials”.
Apart from the serious spelling mistakes, this comment is one of those mindless repetitions of superficial impressions of people who have never been in Vienna and have never read about architecture or aesthetics. Vienna’s city centre is a combination of a couple of medieval buildings (among which the Steffl, the central cathedral), and quite much 17C stuff, and very much 18C buildings. almost all richly decorated. The Hofburg is a combination of 17C, 18C and 19C buildings. The 19C Ringstrasse is adding to this its own version of classicism, also richly decorated, inside and outside the blocks. The ornamentation of classical architecture is always organically related to the structure, and never orthodox, hence the variety. Bauhaus aesthetics did indeed claim it were a form of classicism, but its way of creating spaces and masses is entirely different. Not difficult to see.
In Carl Schorske’s ‘Fin-de Siecle Vienna: Culture and Politics’ one can find a wealth of material and evidence of the debates going-on in Vienna in the 19th and early 20th century about the developments which led to modernist ideology.
By the way: it is interesting that the central ideas of modernism were born in Vienna, and NOT in Paris or London, not even New York. It has a lot to do with Freud and neurosis.
Erwin Ratz is mentioned in the review as the “hugely controversial editor of the Mahler symphonies.” Maybe that’s what made him famous among Mahler afficionados. (Should we call Claudio Abbado a Mahler conductor?)
Among students of music, his book Einführung in die musikalische Formenlehre (“Introduction to Musical Form”) is very stimulating book, “devoted primarily to the work of Bach and Beethoven and strives to find commonalities in their compositional principles. Ratz’s explanation and expansion of Schoenberg’s notions of the “basic idea” and the typology of themes (period and sentence) form the foundation of William Caplin’s theory of formal functions.” (Wikipedia)
The more we know the less we can, as gynaecologists know all too well.
Maybe, but there is a sweet spot where deep knowledge enhances our capabilities. Good books help us get there.
True. But they are as dangerous as hedge-clippers: in the hands of the immature they do more damage than good.
What a shame that Slipped Disc is helping to perpetuate the design propaganda represented by the Bauhaus. Professor James Stevens Curl has demolished its pseudo-philosophy here:
One could also blame Gropius for making Gustav Mahler very unhappy at the end of his life, as he was desperately trying to finish his 10th Symphony despite declining health.
What I didn’t know is that Erwin Ratz was Gropius’ secretary. He is the one who fudged the order of movements in Mahler’s 6th Symphony, thus ruining many performances and recordings ever since.
I can’t comment on Bauhaus, but if you read Why Mahler? you will find a very different reading of the Mahler-Gropius relationship.
I thought that I had read your book “Why Mahler?” but I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember your description of Gropius. I look forward to finding it again after the present pandemic is over.
John Borstlap, however, feels the same way that I do about the architecture. Maybe if you encourage him, he will outline a theory based on analogy as to why “official” music became inhuman after Mahler.
Best wishes, Nikos
That is not necessary, on these websites there is ample explanation:
In short: the idea that there is ‘progress’ in the arts, and that beauty can only be bourgeois kitsch, led to materialistic notions, where in the end only careerism, money, and vapid nonsense results:
The review of J S Curl is correct. What is not mentioned is the influence of demoralising devastation of 2 world wars, which led to the longing to begin ‘with a clean slate’ and forgetting the evil past which had created such evils, and the pressures of demography and expanding trade and infrastructure, and after WW II the need to quickly build housing spaces after so many cities had been bombed to deserts. ‘Functional’ modernism was the easiest way to meet such needs. And then: the ideology – no, slogan – that being modern means appreciating a sterilised environment.
Leon Krier has campaigned all his life for a restoration of value in architecture, and also in culture in general:
Here’s a listing of the actual tracks. You have to admit, at least it’s not the same old, same old.
Wolpe: Sonata No. 1 “Stehende Musik”
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Wolpe: Marche characteristique
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Wolpe: Adagio Nr. 5 (1920)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Wolpe: Variation (1923)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Wolpe: Tango
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Hauer: Nomos, Op. 2 (1913)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Hauer: Tanz, Op. 10 (1915)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Hauer: Phantasie, Op. 17 (1919)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Hauer: Zwölftonspiel Weihnachten 1946
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Vogel, W: Nature Vivant – Six Pieces Expressionnistes (1917-1921)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Vogel, W: Einsames Getröpfel (1921 / 68)
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Antheil: Death of machines ‘Third Piano Sonata’
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Antheil: Little Shimmy
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano) Stuckenschmidt: Marsch Alexander des Großen über die Brücken von Hamburg (1923)
Hauer had a quite sad and lonely Xmas:
….. but listeners can recover some energy with Antheil:
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