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Classicist terms of sublimity: Christian Friedrich Michaelis, fugue, and fantasy

Chapin, Keith 2006. Classicist terms of sublimity: Christian Friedrich Michaelis, fugue, and fantasy. Ad Parnassum 4 (8) , pp. 115-139.

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Abstract

In his essay ‘On the Sublime in Music’ (‘Ueber das Erhabene in der Musik’, 1801), Christian Friedrich Michaelis applied theories of sublimity to explain the force of obstreperous musical techniques found in many instrumental genres of the time: swift runs, sudden pauses, brusque chords, long series of low tones, and so forth. He threw a kink into his argument, however, when he claimed that the ‘sublime style’ was also the simplest. At first glance, he seems to confuse the French classical theory of sublimity (directed toward pithy statements of a noble idea) with the many other theories that circulated at the time (most directed toward more prolix styles). However, Michaelis actually addressed an important issue in the production and reception of sophisticated and even seemingly disjointed music. In its sublime force, a well-written work can seem simple. It can overcome the artificiality of its construction. Through analyses of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fugue in C minor (Das wohltemperierte Klavier, Book ii) and of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Freie Fantasie in F# minor, this articles offers an interpretation of forced arguments in Michaelis’s essay. If imprecise in his language, Michaelis was sensitive in his criticism.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Publisher: Ut Orpheus Edizioni
ISSN: 1722-3954
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 02:59
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/15046

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