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Vanishing Sensibilities: Schubert, Beethoven, Schumann
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Vanishing Sensibilities: Schubert, Beethoven, Schumann (Hardback)

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Synopsis

Vanishing Sensibilities examines once passionate cultural concerns that shaped music of Schubert, Beethoven, Schumann, and works of their contemporaries in drama or poetry. Music, especially music with text, was a powerful force in lively ongoing conversations about the nature of liberty. This included such topics as the role of consent in marriage, women and public life, same-sex relationships, freedom of the press, and the freedom to worship (or not).

Among the most common vehicles for stimulating debate about pressing social concerns were the genres of historical drama, and legend or myth, whose stories became inflected in fascinating ways during the Age of Metternich. Interior and imagined worlds, memories and fantasies, were called up in purely instrumental

music, and music was widely celebrated in private for its ability to circumvent the restrictions that were choking the verbal arts. The author invites us to listen in on these cultural conversations dating from a time when the climate of censorship made the tone of what was said every bit as important as its content. At this critical moment in European history such things as gesture, spontaneous improvisation, or music's demeanor could release forbidden meanings and fly under the censor's radar

with messages of hope and resistance to political oppression. Muxfeldt concerns herself rather with the mechanisms of communication than with trying to decode or fix meanings, and she probes distortions that form over time when we lose sight of the pressures that shaped expression. In these pages

are accounts of works that were successful in their own time alongside others that failed, among them Schubert's Alfonso und Estrella and his last opera project Der Graf von Gleichen, whose libretto was banned even before Schubert set to work composing it. Enlivening the narrative are generous music examples, reproductions of artwork, and plates of autograph material.

Kristina Muxfeldt is a musicologist on the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University. She specializes in music history, and the intersections of analysis, biography and reception, especially the cultural and social environment around early nineteenth-century music in Vienna. Her work on Schubert, Schumann, and early Romanticism has been widely read. She taught previously at Yale University and has held visiting appointments at the University of Illinois, Princeton University, and the University of Notre Dame.

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