The starting point of the article is Friedrich Nietzsche's aphoristic label "Virtuosos (Jews)." An initial social history of Jewish virtuosos from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries reveals that a genuine "ideal of virtuosity" existed among the German-Jewish bourgeoisie in the first half of the nineteenth century, and that Jewish virtuosos of the time played an important role in contemporary music culture. Since this evidence does not sufficiently explain Nietzsche's observation, the article explores the discourse on the idea of (Jewish) virtuosity at that time. It becomes clear that the negative connotations of the term "Jewish virtuoso" together with a number of related code words significantly shaped the typology of the virtuoso. The Jewish virtuoso became a symbol for music's alleged commercialization and was thus taken to be responsible for profound transformational processes in the marketing of music. The author suggests that the emergence of an increasingly negative view toward virtuosity is a nineteenth-century example of the diffusion of aesthetic judgement and extra-musical criteria which, to some extent, continues to today.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Jews as virtuosos: A study of the social history of music and the effectiveness of a 19th century thinker
|Number of pages
|Archiv fur Musikwissenschaft
|Published - 2009
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