the Ordinary: Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio
and the Wheel of History
by Lawrence Kramer
1. Allegro vivace
I t is one of the paradoxes of music history that European instrumental
music in the first half of the nineteenth century developed a strong tendency
to affiliate itself with literary forms, especially narrative, at the
same time that its apparent autonomy was aggressively being celebrated
and theorized, eventually to the point of being appointed the model for
art in general. The reasons for this situation have never been satisfactorily
explained. One possibility is that music was simply recovering the narrative
connections it had lost as a result of the progressive "emancipation"
from language that had consolidated around the turn of the century and
was enshrined in the reception of Beethoven. Another, perhaps more revealing,
possibility is that the narrative turn provided a means of limiting a
transcendental power that had come to be ascribed to instrumental music
and that was felt to be both magnificent and dangerous.
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