Left, Right, and Center too: Ideological Appropriations of Beethoven in den Centenary Year, Germany 1927

Glenn Stanley


Berlin and Bonn were, in 1927, the principal centers for Beethoven research, performance and commemoration in Germany: Bonn since the founding of the Beethovenhaus in 1879; Berlin as the German cultural as well aa political capital with its performance institutions, university and library, and its print and other media. Berlin was also the center of the ideological conflicts that increasingly determined the cultural and political life of the country; Bonn was a provincial university town, but it too experienced the convulsions of the Weimar era and the Beethovenhaus was a decidedly political institution. “Left, Right, and Center too”: as the political conflicts of the Weimar period escalated, cultural fronts clshed with one another over questions of ideological charactger and national identity, as exemplified by the reception of Otto Klemperer’s controversial performance of Fidelio at the Kroll Opera in 1927. The journalistic right invoked anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism in condemning the production; the left praised its lack of sentimentality and associated the opera with political revolution (Ernst Bloch); the amorphous bildungs-bürgerlich center (Alfred Einstein) acknowledged its merits but found its break with tradition to be too radical. From this perspective I will analyze the cultural production of the Beethoven year 1927: commemorations, special performances, academic and popular writings. I predict that the center was primarily a center-right moving increasingly towards radical-right nationalism and proto-fascism.


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