What the German nation is and what its boundaries are have always puzzled historians of the early construction of the German nation-state. Indeed the further back into history one searches, the more elusive the very notion of a German national identity becomes. According to Herder, nationalism has little to do with the state, let alone politics or citizenship. Nations are pre-political, their roots lie in language, culture and ethnicity. The German nation-state, at the beginning of Wilhelmine Empire, was a strong, politically widely accepted one. The completion of unity in 1870-71 stands in a complicated relationship with what had been created in 1866-7. The state was accordingly less unitary than the greater Prussia of 1867. Consequently, the federalism of the Second Empire took the form of tolerating different kinds of governments, rather than "devolving power from the centre on a uniform basis".
[...] Applegate, ‘Germans as the People of Music' p.31. Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Introduction' in Imagined Nations p.3-25 Geoffrey Cubitt,' Introduction' in Imagined Nations p.15 Geoffrey Cubitt, Introduction in Imagined Nations p.17 Jaraush P.Potter Germans as the people of music” p.21 David B Dennis, The Second Reich p.48 George L. Mosse, Organizations Take a Hand, in The Nationalization of the Masses p.136-145 J.Peck, M.Ash [...]
[...] Indeed, Schonberg's groundbreaking atonal composition, Pierrot Lunaire, was set to the German translation of a French text, and for Salome, Strauss's most daring break with German operatic traditions, the composer used Oscar Wilde's play. D.Dennis has underlined the grotesqueness of linking great music to nationalism, as music was too high to be associated with the nation, and Beethoven's achievements too great to be transformed in ugly political songs”. In the same manner Kurt Eisner- editor of the leading socialist newspaper, Vorwärts, in 1889, lengthily blamed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for its incapacity to talk to the German people: the masses had no idea that they were heirs of such a rich legacy”. Indeed, great music was already too elitist to match with the patriotic ideal of talking to every German heart. [...]
[...] M.Hugues saw in the use of German musical pride a toughening of the notion of nationess: was active nationalism in that it was based on gross dissatisfaction with prevailing conditions in Germany and sought to bring about fundamental changes: this differentiated it clearly from the passive nationalism or patriotism which simultaneously came to affect almost all groups in German society”. For George L. Mosse, the music played in national events at this period of time was displaying more than patriotic feelings only: song was still considering a revolutionary weapon . [...]
[...] Why not use all nine symphonies, one after another?” The conductor Siegfried Ochs wrote: “This is more than a question of music, or of art, it is a question of the existence or non-existence of our Fatherland”. It cannot be denied the tremendous impact of German musical supremacy in shaping the early nationalism of 1870-71. If there is an art that has to be used in Germany it must be music. Banal nationalism rested on surprisingly secure foundations, which prevented it from collapsing as the means of representation changed at the turn of the century. [...]
[...] For Reithmüller, the solidification of the prestige of music from German composers coincides roughly with two historical developments: the crystallization of canons of musical works and the rise of an ardent, aggressive nationalism, usually called völkisch nationalism. David B.Dennis, while talking about Hans Von Bülow's performance in Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in March 1892, came to the same conclusion: “Althrough the crowd disagreed with the linkage made by Von Bülow Bismarck as the Beethoven of German politics his speech shows that a musical myth infused with exclusive nationalism thrived throughout the Bismarck era, despite the efforts of more cosmopolitan thinkers”. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee