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Franz Brendel's Theses on Concert Reformation and Gewandhaus-Concert




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Comparing Franz Brendel's theses on concert reformation with the tendency in the programmes of Gewandhaus-Concert, this paper examines two contrasting standpoints on the public concert in the 19th century Leipzig.

Brendel, editor of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and spokesman of the New German School, wrote "Thesen über Concertreform" for his journal in 1856. Though he professes fairness and generality in the introduction of this long article, 22 main theses reveal his partiality for the radical and show themselves to be direct criticism against conservative Gewandhaus-Concert. From his Hegelian and Wagnerian view, Brendel insists on two points: to adopt the new masterworks, especially of such composers as Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner, and to give vocal music a more important place than instrumental.

Conservatism of Gewandhaus is proved from the investigation into the frequencies of 24 composers' works performed from 1830 to 1869, including entire years under Mendelssohn and Rietz. These data, based on the statistics in Dörffel's centennial history (1884), show Gewandhaus' favour to Mendelssohn, Schumann and. classical masters and neglect of Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner. But it is not reactionary. Gewandhaus adopts new works not following the newfangled trend but prudently examining their value as classics. Increasing preference for instrumental music over vocal is also observed.

The standpoints of Brendel and Gewandhaus represent two rival mainstreams of musical thinking in 19th century Europe. But they stand on one common basis: the confidence in Bildungsfunktion (function to educate or culturalize people) of the public concert. Brendel requires concert organizations to cultivate audiences and to present the sublime of art. The directors of Gewandhaus arranged their programme with the aim to ennoble the musical senses of audiences. Their rivalry is derived from the difference between the directions of Bildung to form audiences who can adapt themselves to the progress of music and be able to discern the quality of classics.

The idea of Bildung was one of the moments which gave art a higher value than craft or other things in the second half of the 18th century. With such a heightened value of art,music was freed from various events or festivities and found its special place in the public concert.In the 19th century,the public concert became rather ritualistic to be suitable for the place of Bildung. The ritualization of the concert is manifested in the transition from the "potpourri-programme" to a more stylized programme. Brendel's claim to vocal concert without symphony and Gewandhaus' preference for symphonic works are on the same stage as the stylization or ritualization of the public concert. The historical fact that we are more familiar with symphonic concert tells us that it is not Brendel but Gewandhaus that has made the basis of the concert in the 20th century.

Bulletin of Takasaki Junior College  vol.1  p.3-49 1987

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