This absorbing book chronicles the exploitation of Beethoven's life and work by German political parties from the founding of the modern nation to the East German Revolution of 1989. Drawing on a wealth of previously untapped archival resources, David B. Dennis examines how politicians have associated Beethoven with competing visions of German destiny, thereby transforming art and artist into powerful national symbols.
Dennis shows for the first time that propagandists of every persuasion have equated Beethoven's works with dogma. In the late nineteenth century, supporters of Bismarck and the German emperors endorsed a militaristic interpretation forged during the Franco-Prussian War, while opponents promoted portraits of Beethoven as revolutionary. In the First World War, Beethoven was drawn into the trenches, where Germans countered enemy allegations that they had forfeited the right to enjoy his music. Beethoven interpretations fragmented the Weimar Republic, as every faction formulated its own variation. The Nazi view of the composer as Führer was enforced in the Third Reich. After 1945, German views of Beethoven corresponded to the division of the nation, but when the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989 one sentiment rose to dominance: that all people could become brothers, just as the composer had wished in his Ninth Symphony. By establishing connections between Beethoven's art and public policy, Dennis has written a book of compelling interest to historians, musicologists, and Beethoven enthusiasts alike.
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