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BeethovenA Political Artist in Revolutionary Times$
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William Kinderman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226669052

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226669199.001.0001

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The Sublime and Inverted Sublime

The Sublime and Inverted Sublime

(p.33) Chapter II The Sublime and Inverted Sublime

William Kinderman

University of Chicago Press

Beethoven's awareness of repressive political conditions in Austria is documented in sources from the 1790s, reflecting his consciousness that a striving toward "humanity" would remain difficult, "even as centuries come to pass." His embrace of Schiller's ideas of resistance and of the sublime is displayed in his Sonate pathétique, which resonates with Schiller's essay Über das Pathetische. Other pieces, such as the slow movements of his Quartet op, 18 no. 1 and Sonata op. 10 no. 3, show Shakespearean affinities. Another potent aesthetic influence stems from Jean Paul Richter, whose dualistic notion of the Great and Small and idea of the comic as the inverted sublime are reflected in various Beethovenian pieces of comic cast. A dynamic forcefield of musical ideas with latent political implications is found in Beethoven's piano concertos, notably nos. 1 and 3, whose visionary passages are compatible with Schiller's aesthetics. His Variations on Handel's Judas Maccabaeus are perhaps a concealed homage to Napoleon, whose action in liberating the Marquis de Lafayette—the model for Schiller's Marquis de Posa in his Don Carlos—was surely appreciated by the composer. Beethoven's association with Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte forms part of the context of his admiration of Bonaparte as First Consul of France.

Keywords:   suffering, comedy, Shakespearean tragedy, sublime, resistance

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