Temporality in Nineteenth-Century Russian Music and the Notion of Development

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It has long been a truism of music criticism that nineteenth-century Russian symphonic music lacks a true sense of development when compared with a normative German model. This article puts forward an alternative way of approaching Russian instrumental music, from the perspective of a different conception of musical and historical time. By interrogating both musically and culturally this idea of temporality, the article suggests a potential distinction between a specifically Western model of time and historical progress—marked by the qualities of onward teleological process and the capacity for organic development, as celebrated in the archetypal Beethovenian symphonic style—and a static, cyclical, repetitive, even timeless conception that may be seen to apply more aptly to several pieces of the nineteenth-century Russian repertory. Yet this neat binary opposition created between East and West is seen to be overly simplistic for many pieces that fall outside the small group of high-profile nationalist works from the Kuchka. The article ultimately argues for a richer understanding of music’s relation with time within both Russian and Austro-German traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-118
JournalMusic and Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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