Cover image for Beethoven : the philosophy of music : fragments and texts
Beethoven : the philosophy of music : fragments and texts
Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969.
Uniform Title:
Beethoven. English
Publication Information:
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xii, 268 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Prelude -- Music and concept -- Society -- Tonality -- Form and the reconstruction of form -- Critique -- The early and 'classical' phases -- Vers une analyse des symphonies -- The late style (I) -- Late work without late style -- The late style (II) -- Humanity and demythologization.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.B4 A48613 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Beethoven is a classic study of the composer's music, written by one of the most important thinkers of our time. Throughout his life, Adorno wrote extensive notes, essay fragments and aides-memoires on the subject of Beethoven's music. This book brings together all of Beethoven's music in relation to the society in which he lived. Adorno identifies three periods in Beethoven's work, arguing that the thematic unity of the first and second periods begins to break down in the third. Adorno follows this progressive disintegration of organic unity in the classical music of Beethoven and his contemporaries, linking it with the rationality and monopolistic nature of modern society. Beethoven will be welcomed by students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines - philosophy, sociology, music and history - and by anyone interested in the life of the composer.

Author Notes

Theodor W. Adorno is the progenitor of critical theory, a central figure in aesthetics, and the century's foremost philosopher of music. He was born and educated in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing his Ph.D. in philosophy, he went to Vienna, where he studied composition with Alban Berg. He soon was bitterly disappointed with his own lack of talent and turned to musicology.

In 1928 Adorno returned to Frankfurt to join the Institute for Social Research, commonly known as The Frankfurt School. At first a privately endowed center for Marxist studies, the school was merged with Frankfort's university under Adorno's directorship in the 1950s. As a refugee from Nazi Germany during World War II, Adorno lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to Frankfurt. Much of his most significant work was produced at that time.

Critics find Adorno's aesthetics to be rich in insight, even when they disagree with its broad conclusions. Although Adorno was hostile to jazz and popular music, he advanced the cause of contemporary music by writing seminal studies of many key composers. To the distress of some of his admirers, he remained pessimistic about the prospects for art in mass society.

Adorno was a neo-Marxist who believed that the only hope for democracy was to be found in an interpretation of Marxism opposed to both positivism and dogmatic materialism. His opposition to positivisim and advocacy of a method of dialectics grounded in critical rationalism propelled him into intellectual conflict with Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Heideggerian hermeneutics.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Adorno's pronouncements on the sociology of music had a profound impact on music aesthetics and criticism for more than four decades (from about 1928 to 1969). Adorno wrote extended essays on Wagner, Mahler, and Berg, but his grand plan--a book on Beethoven and his philosophy of music--eluded him for 30 years. Tiedemann has collectd Adorno's notes, aphorisms, and fragmentary sketches for that project, organized materials thematically, and added extracts from Adorno's published essays. The reader soon discovers Adorno's deep respect for Beethoven's music, which he equates with Hegel's "world spirit" concept. Of special interest are Adorno's critiques of contemporary views of Beethoven (including those of Rene Leibowitz, Rudolf Kolisch, and Romain Rolland) and his own analyses of the composer's treatment of the sonata and problems with orchestration. More controversial are his stunning deductions about the advantages of deafness and the assumed superiority of absolute over texted music. More than 70 pages of editorial notes and appendixes help identify the many references to music and scholarly writings. But although Edmund Jephcott's English translation is clear and literate, only the most informed readers--from ambitious upper-division undergraduates to faculty-- will benefit much from this work, which presupposes an intimate knowledge of both Beethoven's music and the dialectical process. A. M. Hanson; St. Olaf College

Table of Contents

Editor's Preface
1 Prelude
2 Music and Concept
3 Society
4 Tonality
5 Form and the Reconstruction of Form
6 Critique
7 Early and `Classical' Phases
8 Vers une analyse des symphonies
9 Late Style (I)
10 Late Work without Late Style
11 Late Style (II)
12 Humanity and Demythologization
Editor's Notes
Editorial Afterword
Comparative Table of Fragments
Thematic Summary of Contents