The Romantic Symphony
Nov. 11, 2018 commemorated 100 years since the end of World War I. Generally referred to as the first “total war,” WWI blurred the boundaries between front and home front, forever changing the face of modern warfare. By its end, the “Great War” was one of the deadliest armed conflicts in history, with the toll of civilian and military casualties reaching 40 million. In its aftermath, the rise of social and political movements in many countries supported suffrage and political activism by minority groups, but also caused a radicalization of nationalist movements. This led to totalitarian regimes in several countries, as well as changes in political configurations on the world stage. Today, representations, reactions and responses to WWI are found in art, film, literature and theatre throughout the 20th century and all over the world.
University of Toledo brought scholars from various disciplines and institutions to discuss and critically examine cultural representations and memories of WWI.
Matthew Forte, Assistant Professor of Music History, College of Arts and Letters, spoke on “The Romantic Symphony.”
His presentation postulated that the system of values that made musical Romanticism a dominant mode of aesthetic expression of late 19th-century Europe was comprehensively extinguished by the trump of the First World War. In its brutality, its futility, its inhumanity, and its degradation, the Great War utterly destroyed many of the cultural presumptions that were necessary in order for Romanticism to exist. By tracing the apogee of musical Romanticism — and its perhaps most quintessential form, the large-scale symphony — in the first decade of the twentieth century, and its quick demise in the second, this presentation will demonstrate that the Great War had a profound and lasting impact on European musical culture.
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