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Beethoven During Weimar

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Beethoven During Weimar. The Weimar Republic was created as a result of Germany losing World War I. It was a full-fledged democracy. Lots of newly empowered groups formed political parties. Lots of people began voting. Change was the order of the day.

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beethoven during weimar
Beethoven During Weimar
  • The Weimar Republic was created as a result of Germany losing World War I.
  • It was a full-fledged democracy.
  • Lots of newly empowered groups formed political parties.
  • Lots of people began voting.
  • Change was the order of the day.
There were eight elections during the Weimar years.
  • The dates of these elections are 6 June 1920, 15 April 1924, 11 July 1924, 20 May 1928, 14 September 1930, 31 July 1932, 11 November 1932, and 5 March 1933.
  • As can be seen by some of the close spacing of the elections, politics were rough and tumbly during that period.
Major groups that began to organize politically in strength during the Weimar years were: 1. Workers who were drawn to the SPD (socialist) and the Communist Party. 2. Bourgeoisie (the middle class, often tradespeople) who were drawn to newly formed parties, such as the DVP, DDP3. Catholics, especially the peasantry, supporting the Catholic Center Party.4. The Protestant peasants and the disaffected bourgeoisie who supported the Nazi Party5. The conservative aristocracy who supported the conservative DNVP.
All groups used music to assist them in gaining support from the Weimar voters.
  • Beethoven was the favorite composer for virtually everyone.
  • Nearly all German people had a deep affection for the music of Beethoven. It represented something cultural, something connected to their heritage.
The basic strategy for all groups using music to assist in developing and maintaining membership organizations was to create an association between Beethoven’s music and their political themes.
  • Since there were so many groups trying to do the same thing with the same composer during the Weimar years, there was fierce debate regarding Beethoven’s “real” politics.
Thus developed various versions of a “Beethoven myth.”
  • Few of these myths had any strong historical grounding in fact with regard to Beethoven’s actual political views. But all pointed to aspects of Beethoven’s life and music that seemed to “prove” their case.
The goals of “Beethoven myth-making” during the Weimar period:1. To create a link in the minds of voters between particular musical pieces that seemed to best represent a “true” German tradition.2. Create supportive stories about Beethoven and his ideas that promoted the idea that the composer was “one of them,” ideologically and culturally.
After creating a “Beethoven myth,” political organizers would have certain musical pieces performed in order to create the correct ambience in an audience.
  • Guidance with respect to ideological and political behavior offered by the political elite could be emotionally anchored by the music in the minds of voters to help create a desired level of motivation.
  • It worked like chorales work in churches (See David Dennis, p. 97-8)
Leftists worked especially hard a promoting a “republican” Beethoven ideology.
  • Catholic Center Party organizers argued that it was Beethoven’s inner Christian faith that gave him the courage and strength to create such beautiful music under such hardship. His many religious pieces were evidence of his core faith.
  • Conservatives argued that Beethoven was a counterrevolutionary and nationalistic hero.
All groups found evidence somewhere in Beethoven’s complex life to support their own particular interpretations of the composer and his music.
  • For example, leftists who supported the Weimar Republic argued that Beethoven’s original dedication of the Symphony No. 3 to Napoleon was truly an embrace of revolutionary republican politics. On the other hand, conservatives argued that Beethoven accepted the “old social order” and even sought and found employment there.
The extreme right-wing groups of the Weimar period tended to emphasize the counterrevolutionary interpretation of Beethoven’s life combined with a portrait of Beethoven’s thorough “Germanness.”
  • Some groups even sought to portray Beethoven as physically corresponding with a racist ideology, emphasizing their perception of his “Nordic” features. Some of the arguments about his physical characteristics were quite wild.
Nazi propagandists were particularly enthusiastic about creating a “Beethoven myth.” They argued,1. Beethoven hated the French.2. He supported authoritarianism.3. He disliked social disorder characteristic of revolutions.4. Beethoven’s music was vigorous, and thus symbolic of the vigor of the Nazi movement.
  • (See Dennis, p. 133)
Rightists “seriously” evaluated all evidence of Beethoven’s racial origin.
  • Nazi propagandists went to great lengths to discount negative (to them) interpretations of Beethoven’s racial characteristics.
  • Some theorists even argued that even if Beethoven had some mixed blood, he fought to conquer it to produce the most pure Nordic music. His struggle led to him raising himself beyond his limitations to achieve a status of a Nordic hero.
But the Nazis were not able to fully compete with the other groups in Weimar for producing a dominant “Beethoven myth.”
  • The Nazis used concerts less effectively than other groups, relying more heavily on written propaganda that made arguments supportive of their Beethoven interpretations, and which argued against other interpretations.
  • All this changed after Weimar.