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Beethoven after Napoleon Political Romanticism in the Late Works

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A Kingdom Not of This World

Our kingdom is not of this world, say the musicians, for where do we find in nature, like the painter or the sculptor, the prototype of our art? Sound dwells everywhere, but the soundsñthat is, the melodiesñthat speak the higher language of the spirit kingdom reside in the human heart alone.

This passage could head all E.T.A. Hoffmann's writings on music. In story, novella, essay, and review he championed the unique status of his beloved art. Music alone, claimed Hoffmann, slipped the shackles of imitation that bound the other arts to nature, the world of the senses. Such abstraction, however, did not render music mute. The most purely spiritual art, music soared above physical reality to express a realm of metaphysical experience. As the allusion to John's gospel indicates, Hoffmann credited music with religious revelationñand the composer with a messianic calling. Hoffmann did not labor in vain. Perhaps more than any other writer he helped propagate the doctrine of "absolute music," an idea that still holds sway among critics and audiences.

Nowhere did Hoffmann more eloquently proclaim this gospel than in his review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In this landmark of Beethoven reception, published in 1810 in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Hoffmann set a new standard for musical criticism, supporting the loftiest philosophical assertions with the keenest analytical precision. His exordium hails Beethoven as the high priest of a purified instrumental music, a music that "opens to mankind an unknown kingdom, a world that has nothing in common with the outer sensory world." And yet, Hoffmann argued, let no one mistake this abstraction for undisciplined frenzy, the "product of a genius who, unconcerned with form and the selection of thoughts, gave himself over to his passion and the momentary impulses of his powers of imagination." Through a detailed analysis Hoffmann sought to show that, despite his eccentricities, Beethoven was "no less qualified, in regards to reflection [Besonnenheit], to stand beside Haydn and Mozart." The review thus purports to demonstrate the astounding claim of Kreisleriana: that music can detach itself utterly from physical reality, yet still communicate intelligibly about the spiritual realm.

A paradox lurks at the heart of Hoffmann's argument. In order to discuss music at all, he had to use language, a sign system rooted in the natural, sensory world. Hoffmann himself was acutely aware of the chasm between music and language. As he contended in "Beethovens Instrumentalmusik" (Kreisleriana), music conveyed "a higher expression than mere words, fit only for confined, earthly pleasure, can signify." He begins the symphony review by confessing that "he is overwhelmed by the object of which he should speak," and he entreats the reader not to "begrudge it him if, overstepping the bounds of common judgments, he strives to contain in words what that composition has so profoundly stirred within his soul" (p. 34). As a Romantic idealist, Hoffmann preached the total separation of music and language; as a working music critic, he had to bridge the abyss. Indeed, Hoffmann's doctrine of absolute music did not prevent him from producing an imposing bulk of literature devoted precisely to illuminating the inner nature of music. He wanted it both ways, declaring the transcendence of music while dissecting its content.

This contradiction caused a strain in Hoffmann's criticism that has not gone unnoticed. Robin Wallace pointed to a rigidity in the Fifth Symphony review, remarking that "everything works together to demonstrate the central thesis, which is driven home with an almost irrational consistency." Peter Schnaus has raised further doubts about Hoffmann's critical acuity by tracing much of his language to a well-worn journalistic vocabulary. Most troubling is the Fifth Symphony itself, which stubbornly resists repatriation in Hoffmann's Geisterreich. This symphony, which critics from A.B. Marx to Scott Burnham have heard as the epitome of heroic, humanistic striving, would seem to provide one of the least convincing examples of a music that "has nothing in common with the outer sensory world." Certain passages do evoke a spiritual, or at least ghostly, ambianceñthe mysterious modulations in the second movement, the withered recapitulation of the scherzo, or the muffled drum beats before the finale. Offsetting these eerie moments, however, is the rampant kinesthetic appeal of the symphony, felt in the motivic propulsion of the first movement, the ubiquitous marches (that invade even the triple-time slow movement and scherzo), and the triumphant C-major finale, with its overtones of the French Revolutionary éclat triomphale. Many musical works do match Hoffmann's ideal of an abstract, purely spiritual music (including some by Beethoven); but the Fifth Symphony hardly springs to mind.

A fissure thus opens in Hoffmann's doctrine of the musical absolute. If, as he claimed, music and language inhabit wholly separate realms, then his writing about music must be stained with extramusical meanings, including perhaps political meanings. A scrutiny of Hoffmann's critical language reveals that what he said (and left unsaid) about the Fifth Symphony indeed owes much to the political situation around 1810. Yet this study aspires to more than mere deconstruction. For Hoffmann's criticism contains a serendipitous wisdom, even where his Romantic aesthetic strains most noticeably against the heroic text. Indeed, it is precisely through such disjunctures that we can learn the most about Beethoven's political thoughtñif not in the Fifth Symphony, then in works yet to come.

Heroic Romantics

"My kingdom is not of this world." The words of Christ to Pontius Pilate, his imperial Roman captor, were painfully relevant in 1813. For Hoffmann, as for any Prussian citizen, the dominating historical fact was the subjection of his land to Napoleon. Although war had smoldered continuously in Europe since the French Revolution, Prussia had enjoyed eleven years of peace following the 1795 Treaty of Basel. In 1806 Prussia rashly took up arms against Napoleon and, after disastrous defeats at Jena and Auerstedt, lost half its population and territory in the reconstitution of the dissolved Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon occupied the country, installed French agents and officials, and levied enormous war reparations, further crippling the economy. With the traditional boundaries of their land liquidated by a foreign power and their leaders vacillating between resistance and collaboration, Prussian subjects might well have wondered if they possessed a kingdom of this world.

No disinterested bystander, Hoffmann experienced the direct impact of the French occupation. Ousted from his government post in 1806 for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to Napoleon, Hoffmann found himself in severe financial straits, forced to hawk trivial compositions and give music lessons. The lean conditions of the war years also account for his work as a music critic. His short (and rather unsuccessful) stint as a full-time musicianñfrom 1806 until 1814, when he resumed judicial workñexactly coincides with the Napoleonic occupation and so-called Befreiungskriege, or Wars of Liberation.

Hoffmann's early Ritter Gluck (1809) registers the politicized mood of Napoleonic Prussia. The fantastic tale begins with this description of occupied Berlin: "Soon all the places are occupied at Klaus and Weber; the carrot coffee steams, one argues about king and peace . . . about the closed commercial state and bad Groschen." Benedikt Koehler has unpacked the constellation of political codes: "Mohrrüben-Kaffee" was the ersatz beverage forced upon the Berliners by Napoleon's blockade, the Continental System; the argument "über König und Frieden" refers to the debate between nationalist proponents of an uprising against Napoleon and the royal cabinet, which was steering a course of accommodation with France; the "geschlossener Handelsstaat" was the protosocialist treatise of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who had emerged as an outspoken nationalist with his Reden an die deutsche Nation (Addresses to the German Nation), delivered in Berlin the previous year; and "schlechte Groschen" alludes to the inflationary economy.

In 1813, after Prussia resumed the war against France, Hoffmann began to voice openly patriotic sentiments. His grisly fantasy Die Vision auf dem Schlachtfeld bei Dresden, inspired by his first-hand experience of the famous battle, savagely attacks Napoleon and ends with a paean to "the resplendent heroes, the sons of the gods, [Czar] Alexander and Friedrich Wilhelm." (The allied victory at Dresden also inspired a joyful entry in his journal: "Freedom!ñFreedom!ñFreedom! My dearest hopes are fulfilled, and the steadfast faith to which I clung through the darkest times is proven true.") Two years later, after hearing of Napoleon's escape from Elba, Hoffman penned the tale Der Dei von Elba in Paris, an apotheosis of German liberation that ends on a note of pious nationalism: "We have built a mighty fortress; the banner of the fatherland waves high, terrorizing the cunning enemy. However much the dark powers may enter into our life, we, who are born to pious trust and firm faith, shall banish the fearsome shadows."

More intriguing than these propaganda pieces are the patriotic themes that dot Hoffmann's writings about music. In the Fifth Symphony review he ridicules Louis Jadin's Bataille des trois empereurs, a characteristic symphony written to celebrate Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz; political and aesthetic polemics here unite, as Hoffmann simultaneously condemns French imperialism and mimesis. The "Höchst zerstreute Gedanken" of Kreisleriana contains even more pointed barbs. A panegyric to Gluck ends with a call to arms that clearly extends beyond the operatic dispute with the Piccinists: "Be of good cheer, you unrecognized ones, you who are bowed down beneath the frivolity and injustice of the spirit of the age; you are assured of certain victory, and it is eternal, since your exhausting struggle was but fleeting." The four italicized words are "Euch," "gewisser," "der," and "Kampf." David Charlton has suggested that this acrostic may encode a patriotic message; one solution that might be hazarded is "Erhalte Gott der König," or "God save the King." Hoffmann has again fused aesthetics and politics in the figure of Gluck, who championed solid Germanic values in the decadent French capital. This sort of double entendre appears still more clearly in Hoffmann's vicious review of Boïeldieu's Nouveau seigneur (1814), which concludes with

the heartfelt wish that the paltry genre of operetta, with its cloying sweetness, with its insipid buffoonery, just as it came from the French stage to ours, as something wholly uncongenial to our spirit, to our view of music, might, together with the blind reverenceñadmittedly extorted sword in handñfor everything else that comes from there, disappear as soon as possible. Hoffmann spelled out the connection between artistic and political aims in his operatic manifesto Der Dichter und der Komponist (1813). The union of the operatic arts, symbolized by the poet Ferdinand and the composer Ludwig, intertwines with the ideal of patriotic unity:

Ferdinand pressed his friend to him. The latter took up his full glass: "Eternally united in a higher cause through life and death!" "Eternally united in a higher cause through life and death!" repeated Ferdinand, and in a few minutes his impetuous steed was carrying him into the host that, rejoicing in their wild lust for battle, drove toward the enemy. Hoffmann's musical writings and activities suggest not only patriotic fervor, but the spirit of the reform movement that sprang up in Prussia during the Napoleonic occupation as well. Following the 1806 debacle, a faction among Friedrich Wilhelm II's ministers sought to infuse new ideas and organization into every aspect of Prussian national life. Spearheading the movement was Baron Stein, who seized on the wartime crisis to realize his longstanding plans for modernization. After Napoleon exiled Stein in 1808 for subversion, leadership fell to the less effective Count Hardenberg, under whom the reform movement fizzled out, capitulating to entrenched aristocratic interests. The reformers recognized that Prussia could survive only by broadening political involvement in the French manner. The collapse of the celebrated Prussian army had revealed the rot in the absolutist state and the contrasting power of the French nation aux armes. Stein believed that victory against Napoleon depended on rousing Prussia to a similar levée en masse, which meant revamping the paternalistic Obrigkeitsstaat. As Walter Simon put it, Stein's "formula for the salvation of Prussia penetrated into all departments of public life: it was no less than the restoration and mobilization of the nation's resources." Generals Scharnhorst, Boyen, and Gneisenau set about restructuring the army, working for universal conscription, limits on corporal punishment, and the establishment of a Landsturm or citizen militia. Albrecht Thaer labored to replace the feudal agricultural system with more productive capitalist methods imported from England. Stein's Emancipation Edict of 1807 freed the peasants and opened land ownership to all classes, and under Wilhelm von Humboldt national education underwent a revolution, culminating in the establishment of the University of Berlin in 1810. Less successfully, Hardenberg worked to introduce a constitution and representative branch into the monarchy.

Close contacts link Hoffmann to this optimistic movement. His best friend, Theodor von Hippel, was a prominent reformer and the author of Friedrich Wilhelm's wartime appeal "An mein Volk." Hippel was the model for the poet-warrior Ferdinand in Der Dichter und der Komponist, whose setting was inspired by a chance meeting between the two friends in Dresden. During the war years Hippel served as counselor to Hardenberg, who reappointed Hoffmann to the Berlin judiciary in 1814 and made him an honored guest at his home after the war. It is not certain how well Hoffmann knew Stein, but the baron personally extended him financial assistance in 1807 after Hoffmann was ousted from his judicial post. While languishing in Berlin during 1807—8, Hoffmann also met Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher, two of the most outspoken literary proponents of national reform.

The reforming spirit animates every sphere of Hoffmann's activity during the Napoleonic years. As director of the Bamberg Court Theater and, later, the Dresden Seconda Opera Troupe, he fought for an organic conception of opera uniting music, drama, and spectacle. This proto-Wagnerian crusade took theoretical form in Der Dichter und der Komponist and "Der vollkommene Maschinist" (Kreisleriana) and found practical expression in Undine (1816), in which he answered his own call for a German Romantic opera. Hoffmann also campaigned to reform church music, a project culminating, on the one hand, in the nine-voiced Miserere of 1809 and, on the other, in the essay "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik" (1814). In this essay Hoffmann forayed into the realm of practical governmental reform when he prescribed for the bourgeois choral societies that, "should these societies prove to be a genuine influence on church music, they must not remain private enterprises, but rather should be directed and supported in religious form by the state."

With this proposal, Hoffmann joined in the foremost cultural demand of the reform movement, education. Bildung, the neohumanistic ideal of inner formation, beckoned to the reformers as a potent source of national strength. As Rudolf Vierhaus explained,

The political and spiritual excitement of the Napoleonic age had created a propitious situation for essential educational reforms, but also for the notion that the resurgence of Germany, her national rejuvenation and greater unity, the overthrow of absolutism, and the "participation" of the people in the state could be neither solely nor decisively effected politically, but must rather be a matter of the education and Bildung of all. . . . With powerful optimism, numerous philosophers, pastors, government officials, teachers, political writers, and journalists busied themselves with special and general problems of Bildung. The pages of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung give a taste of this enthusiasm. Between 1809 and 1811 no fewer than eleven issues featured articles devoted to the Gesangsbildung of Heinrich Pestalozzi, the Zurich pedagogue whom Fichte had hailed in his Reden as the guiding light of German education. Pestalozzi himself contributed a brief column to the paper in 1811. In February and September 1810, straddling Hoffmann's July review of the Fifth Symphony, a two-part essay appeared, "Über die ästhetische Bildung des componierenden Tonkünstlers," which prescribed the proper nurturance for Germany's future composers.

Hoffmann addressed the subject of education most explicitly in Kreisleriana, through a pair of antithetical epistolary essays. The "Nachricht von einem gebildeten jungen Mann" sets forth a letter from a monkey who has been trained in all the graces of human speech, behavior, and culture. Hoffmann thus pilloried the mechanical, cosmopolitan notion of education, which merely taught the pupil to "ape" an adopted culture. He countered such sterile imitation in "Johannes Kreislers Lehrbrief." The imitation of a journeyman's certificate of mastery pays tribute to Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, and the essay itself centers around a miniature Bildungsroman. The youthful composer, Chrysostomus, finds himself drawn to a bloodstained rock, from which issue mysterious shapes and melodies. Years later, after undergoing a rigorous musical education, Chrysostomus returns to the childhood spot; he now finds that his academic training allows him to grasp with perfect clarity the hidden figures and sounds. The narrator draws the moral that the composer's art depends intimately upon the development of inner powers of concentration and creative formation, a central goal of Bildung: "The more lively, the more penetrating his recognition becomes, and the greater his ability to hold fast his exertions as with special mental powers and to conjure them into signs and symbols, the higher the musician stands as composer."

The marriage of inspiration and technique that distinguishes the mature Chrysostomus returns as the central thesis of Hoffmann's review of the Fifth Symphony. Hoffmann's praise of Beethoven's Besonnenheit, his ability to impart shape and logic to his musical fantasies, echoes an ideal that Goethe had proclaimed in his famous manifesto of Weimar Classicism, the sonnet "Natur und Kunst" (published 1807):

So ist's mit aller Bildung auch beschaffen,
Vergebens werden ungebundne Geister
Nach der Vollendung reiner Höhe streben.
Wer Großes will, muß sich zusammenraffen,
In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister,
Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.
Thus is all Bildung accomplished;
In vain shall unbound spirits
Strive toward the perfection of the pure heights.
Whoever seeks greatness must control himself;
Mastery first appears in limitations,
And only law can give us freedom.)


The voice of the pedagogue also speaks in Hoffmann's remark that Beethoven's contrapuntal treatment "testifies to a deep study of the art" (p. 43), or in the claim that Besonnheit is "inseparable from the true genius and is nourished through the study of the art" (p. 37). Hoffmann's review itself epitomizes the union of genius and self-possession, wedding the most rarefied metaphysical speculation to the most concrete technical analysis. In both matter and manner, his review reflects the educational ideal of the reformers: it exalts a paragon of Bildung, even as it models the kind of well-formed sensibility worthy of such culture.

While the optimistic spirit of the reform movement certainly affected Hoffmann, his musical writings resonate still more deeply with the mystical strains of Romantic political thought. The essay "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik" leads to the heart of this political-aesthetic program. Hoffmann begins the essay with an unveiled attack on France:

It is clear that this frivolity, this wicked denial of the Power ruling over us that alone gives prosperity and strength to our works and deeds, this mocking contempt for wholesome piety stems from that nation that, incredibly, stood for so long before a bedazzled world as a model of art and science. . . . The unutterable sacrilege of that nation led finally to a violent revolution that rushed across the earth like a devastating storm.

This passage epitomizes the characteristic compound of politische Romantik: the old struggle against French cultural imperialism coupled with the new campaign against French military imperialism. The slap at Gallic frivolity and immorality resonates with a long polemical tradition in Germany, reaching back to Herder, Lessing, and other early advocates of an autochthonous literary culture. The native writers took aim at the Frenchified court culture, in which each petty prince aspired to a little Versailles. Proponents of a native German culture championed the values of profundity, spirituality, and intuition, in opposition to French elegance, sensualism, and classicismñKultur versus Zivilisation. When the French Revolution spilled across the Rhine and devolved into Napoleonic imperialism, German artists had a literary arsenal at hand.

Romantic political discourse attracted such members of the original Jena circle as the Schlegel brothers, Novalis, and Schleiermacher, but especially the later generation of Romantic writers including Heinrich Kleist, Clemens Brentano, Adam Müller, Achim von Arnim, and Baron de la Motte-Fouqué, Hoffmann's operatic collaborator. Many became actively involved in political activities, like Friedrich Schlegel, who worked as a paid propagandist for the Hapsburgs; or his brother August Wilhelm, who produced propaganda for the Swedish court; or Franz Baader, who helped formulate the Holy Alliance. Patriotic passions could also take artistic form, in Kleist's historical plays, the folklore collections of Arnim, Brentano, and the Grimm brothers, or the "neu-deutsche, religiös-patriotische Kunst" of the Nazarene painters. Adam Müller, the most systematic political thinker among the Romantics, formulated a theory of the state based upon the synergy of male and female principles. The twin epicenters of political Romanticism lodged in Hoffmann's Berlin, home to Kleist, Arnim, Schleiermacher, Fichte, and the fortnightly "Christlich-deutsche Tischgesellschaft"; and Beethoven's Vienna, host to the Schlegel brothers, Müller, the Nazarene painters, and a robust Catholic Romanticism led by Zacharias Werner and Clemens Hofbauer.

The Romantics portrayed themselves as defenders of an embattled Christendom, besieged by the pagan Enlightenment and Revolution. Novalis began his lecture Die Christenheit oder Europa (1799) with a fairy-tale evocation of the Middle Ages: "There once were beautiful, shining times when Europe was a Christian land, where one Christendom inhabited this humanly fashioned part of the world; one grand common interest bound the most distant provinces of the wide spiritual realm." The wave of Catholic conversions among the Romantics impelled the Nazarene painters away from the pagan subjects of neoclassicism toward the sacred art of the Italian Renaissance; in 1808 Franz Overbeck wrote to his father that the true artistic path led "through religion, through a study of the Bible that alone made Raphael into Raphael." The Protestant tradition also lent itself to propaganda purposes, as in Fichte's Reden an die deutsche Nation, modeled on Luther's Reden an die deutsche Ritterschaft. Kleist sanctified his patriotic sentiments in a Catechism for the Germans (1809):

Question: What do you think of Napoleon, the Corsican, the most famous emperor of the French?
Answer: My father, forgive me, but you have already asked me that.
Question: I've already asked you that? Tell me once again, with the words that I taught you.
Answer: A detestable man; the beginning of all evil and the end of all goodness; a sinner whose condemnation would surpass the scope of human language, and rob the angels of breath on Judgment Day.

Hoffmann joined this tradition in "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik," which links the revival of old church music to victory in the temporal sphere:

The old, great masters live on in spirit; their songs have not ceased to echo: it is just that they cannot be heard amid the roaring, raging tumult of the events that have broken over us. May the time of our fulfilled hopes not tarry longer, may a pious life in peace and bliss begin, and may music spread her seraphic wings freely and powerfully, once more to begin the flight into the Beyond, which is her home and from which beam comfort and salvation into the human heart!

The Romantic veneration of history reached beyond medieval Christianity to the glory days of the Germanic past. Hoffmann thus praised Bach and Handel together with Palestrina, just as the Nazarenes enthroned Albrecht Dürer beside Raphael. A few strophes from Beethoven's song Der Bardengeist, WoO 142 (1813), will capture the spirit of this mystical Teutonism:

1. Dort auf dem hohen Felsen sang
Ein alter Bardengeist;
Es tönt wie Aeolsharfenklang
Im bangen schweren Trauersang,
Der mir das Herz zerreist.
5. "Ich suche wohl, nicht find' ich mehr
Ach! die Vergangenheit.
Ich sehe wohl so bang und schwer,
Ich suche dort im Sternenheer
Der Deutschen goldne Zeit"
7. "Ja, herrlich, unerschüttert, kühn
Stand einst der Deutsche da;
Ach! über schwanke Trümmer ziehn
Verhängnißvolle Sterne hin.
Es war Teutonia."
(1. There on the high cliff sang
an ancient bard's spirit;
it sounded like the music of an Aeolian harp
>in a fearful, heavy dirge
that tore my heart apart
5. "I am seeking, indeed, but find no longer,
Alas! the past.
I see, indeed, so fearfully and heavily,
I seek there in the host of stars,
the golden age of the Germans"
7. "Yes, noble, unshaken, bold
the German once stood here;
alas! over frail ruins
fateful stars travel past.
Teutonia is no more.")

In these Romantic sagas, France frequently suffers an invidious comparison with Rome, another rapacious pagan empire. Kleist's play Die Hermannschlacht glorifies Arminius, the turncoat German mercenary who ambushed Caesar Augustus's legions in the Teutoburg Forest. Fichte's Reden conjures up another Roman foe, Luther's "Whore of Babylon." The same trope appears in Der glorreiche Augenblick, Beethoven's triumphal cantata for the Congress of Vienna:

Heil Vienna dir und Glück!
Stolze Roma, trete zurück!
(Hail to you, Vienna, and good fortune!
Proud Rome, fall back!)


Years later Beethoven toyed with an oratorio text, Der Sieg des Kreuzes, whose subject was to have been Constantine's establishment of Christianity in pagan Rome. Hoffmann's quoting of Christ's words to Pilate uses the same code, adding another covert patriotic message to Kreisleriana.

Critics of German Romanticism have drawn different conclusions as to its concrete political program. Heinrich Heine summed up the mood of the leftist Vormärz in Die romantische Schule (1833—35), which savaged the Romantics as reactionary propagandists. As Heine bitterly noted, their theocratic medievalism lent itself easily to Restoration propaganda. Tsar Alexander I drew on Romantic ideas in formulating the Holy Alliance, and Ludwig I of Bavaria enthusiastically embraced the Nazarenes. During the 1830s Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia embarked on a deliberately Romantic cultural program, summoning the mystical Schelling to teach philosophy at the University of Berlin and rebuilding the Cologne cathedralñefforts that earned him David Strauss's lampoon Ein Romantiker auf dem Throne des Cäsars (1847). Yet the Vormärz critics painted an incomplete picture. Romantic evocations of Germany's past could equally well serve radical purposes, as in the Wartburg Festival of 1817. The völkisch nationalism that the European monarchs had encouraged during the wars against Napoleon came under suspicion during the Restoration. Romantic authors who had served the allied cause fell from grace during the Restoration, like Schleiermacher, whose nationalist "Historical School" at the University of Berlin suffered repeated government harassment after the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819.

Carl Schmitt indicted this ambivalence within Romantic politics in his influential 1925 study Politische Romantik. Writing in the objectivist climate following World War I, Schmitt castigated the "subjective occasionalism" of Romanticism: by adapting to any and every political reality, Romanticism betrayed its affinity with bourgeois individualism. Paul Kluckhohn and Jakob Baxa, on the other hand, sought to resuscitate Romantic political thought for the right wing by emphasizing its organic, statist strains. Studies by Jacques Droz and Klaus Epstein confirmed this conservative bias, showing how Romantic political thought continued an authoritarian, antiliberal discourse whose roots reached back well into the eighteenth century.

A growing number of studies have challenged this interpretation. Political Romanticism, especially in its early phase, appears instead as a genuinely utopian project that transmuted the Revolutionary ideals into a "transcendental poetry," imbued with history and mysticism. Such studies insist upon the literary quality of Romantic documents and the need, as Richard Brinkmann urged, "to read them as poetic texts and not as unmediated exposition." One commentator, impressed by this literary alchemy, actually pondered "whether Romantic texts in general can be reduced to their character as artworks, or whether they can also be interpreted as historical documents of political theory."

Such arguments rest, often precariously, upon generous imputations of authorial intent. The perils of this special pleading appear in William Arctander O'Brien's excellent study of Novalis:

Hardenberg's suggestion of a patriotic state religion is the most extreme of many extreme suggestions in Faith and Love, and it provokes a question as to the extent to which Hardenberg's poetical politics leads to a theocracy of the modern stateñto a Romantically pagan totalitarianism. The humorlessness of Hardenberg's suggestion signals a drift from irony toward political cynicismñprecisely the kind of cynicism that led disappointed Romantics to embrace a reactionary cult of the fatherland during the Wars of Liberation."

It is unclear why humorlessness should imply cynicism, rather than (more obviously) sincerity. The same sort of equivocation haunts discussions of Beethoven's patriotic works. Solomon admits that "there is no reason to question the genuineness of Beethoven's patriotic feelings"; he even quotes Beethoven's words, apropos of Wellingtons Sieg, that "I had long cherished the desire to be able to place some important work of mine on the altar of our Fatherland." Nevertheless, Solomon dismisses Beethoven's Congress of Vienna works as "parody and farce." William Kinderman likewise acknowledges Beethoven's unalloyed affection for Der glorreiche Augenblick yet complains that "in historical retrospect, at least, the ideological content of this work is blatant and cynical." Faced with unsavory politics, the critics simply dismiss the texts as insincere.

These contradictions result from measuring the Romantics against modern political definitions. It seems inconceivable to us that Novalis or Beethoven could clamor for freedom and the end of tyranny and simultaneously defend aristocracy and the divine right of hereditary monarchs. Yet conservative and progressive tendencies mix freely throughout Romantic thought, especially before 1814 when the fate of post-Napoleonic Europe was an open question. Assaults on Enlightened liberalism, moreover, could support either reactionary or radical ends, as in the affinities Ernst Hanisch has noted between Adam Müller and the young Karl Marx. Regressive ideas adulterate the thought of even so decided a liberal as Heinrich Theodor von Schön, a leading reformer in Baron Stein's cabinet. An ardent champion of Adam Smith, Schön nevertheless defended the feudal guilds, both as pillars of social stability and as protection for unskilled labor: "In a guild system there is no slavish relationship between workers and masters. The ties are certainly milder and more humane than those that exist between a factory owner and his employees. The guildmaster is head of a family." Given this fluidity of ideas, it makes most sense to view political Romanticism simply as a system of tensions and potentialities. The Romantics found themselves caught between two worlds: traditional feudalism, based upon faith, corporatist bonds, and personal relationships; and an emerging secular and industrial society, based upon reason, abstract law, and mechanical principles. Their political writings offer a wide variety of solutions to this dialectic.

The tensions and ambiguities of Romantic political writing come to light in Hoffmann's operatic manifesto Der Dichter und der Komponist. The final exchange between the composer Ludwig and the poet Ferdinand merits a lengthy excerpt:

Ludwig jumped up and, sighing deeply, took his friend's hand and pressed it to his bosom: "Oh, Ferdinand, dearest, beloved friend!" he exclaimed, "what will become of the arts in these rough, stormy times? Will they not wither like delicate plants that in vain turn their tender heads toward the dark clouds behind which the sun disappeared? Oh, Ferdinand, where have the golden days of our youth gone, what has come of our struggles? All that's finer in life is inundated by the raging torrent that tears along, devastating our fields. From its black waves there are flashes of bloody corpses, and in the horror that seizes us we lose our footingñwe have no supportñour anguished shriek is lost in the dread airñvictims of untamable fury, we sink without hope of salvation!"

Ludwig, turned inward, kept silent.

Ferdinand arose, took his saber and helmet; armed for battle like the god of war, he stood before Ludwig. Astounded, Ludwig looked at him; then a glow suffused Ferdinand's face, his eyes radiated a burning fire, as he spoke, his voice raised: "Ludwig! What has happened to you? Has the prison air you have breathed here for so long preyed upon you to the point where, sick and ailing, you can no longer feel the glowing breath of spring that moves through the clouds, shining in the golden glow of morning? The children of Nature wallowed in lazy idleness, and the most beautiful gifts she offered them they trampled under foot in stupid wantonness. Then the angry Mother awakened War, who had long been asleep in the fragrant flower garden. Like a bronze giant he stepped into the dissolute crowd. Fleeing from his terrible voice resounding from the mountains, they sought the protection of their Mother, in whom they had ceased to believe. But with belief there also came realization: Only strength brings successñthe divine element radiates forth from the battle, like life from death! Yes, Ludwig, ominous times have come upon us, and, as in the eerie depth of the old legends which we hear like wonderfully murmuring thunder in the distant twilight, we perceive clearly once more the voice of the eternal, ruling power. In evidence, striding through our lives, it awakens in us the belief to which the secret of our being unfolds. Dawn breaks, and inspired songsters take wing into the fragrant air, proclaiming the Divine and praising it in song. The golden gates are open and with one beam Science and Art inspirit the whole striving that will unite mankind into one Church. Therefore, Friend, lift up your gaze! Courage! Trust! Faith!"

Hoffmann's correspondence reveals a curious ambivalence toward this lofty speech. In his cover letter to the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, he confides to Christoph Härtel, "I just recently managed to finish an essay that I have promised to Herr Rochlitz for a long time; the setting, which bears the trace of current events, and the comforting final words that I have given the poet should arouse greater interest than if I had given the article the form of a dry dissertation." Only a few days later, however, Hoffmann copied out the entire dialogue in a letter to his friend Carl Friedrich Kunz, confessing that "when in an evil time I penned those comforting words of Ferdinand I felt a great encouragement. May you also, friend, feel the truth of my allusions within yourself, and take comfort in them!" The first letter gives the portrait of an apolitical artist, cynically glamorizing his aesthetic program; the second reveals a sincere patriot. Which is the real Hoffmann?

Like Ludwig, Hoffmann remained remarkably immune to political or ethical thought throughout his early life. He managed to pass through the University of Königsberg without taking the slightest notice of Kant and studied with the most notorious Jacobin musician in Germany, Johann Friedrich Reichardt, without inhaling a whiff of republicanism. On the other hand, Hoffmann clearly conceived a violent hatred of Napoleon and the French and pinned high hopes on an allied victory. His journal entry for 11 November 1813 records his reaction to the allied victory at Leipzig:

A wholly unusual, magnificent feelingñyes, it is true! Freedom! In the evening at Eichelkraut's read about the surrender French are prisoners of warñVery pleasant feeling Composed joyfully.

On 1 December he wrote his friend Hitzig of the French occupation of Dresden:

Already on the 10th we had learned of the capitulation agreement, and my mood was really indescribable when I saw the proud, arrogant French leave ignominiously and disarmed! You have no idea how those scoundrels deliberately devastated and ruined our magnificent Dresden. . . . Now, dear friend, one breathes freely again and I think better times lie just ahead!

Hoffmann's opposing attitudes to Ferdinand's speech seem to mirror a genuine schism in his artistic personañmirrored in the fictional composer and poetñbetween disengaged aesthete and committed patriot.

This ambivalence mirrors a new dichotomy in Hoffmann's work. A week after writing these letters he began work on Der goldne Topf, a classic Romantic expression of the dualism between real and ideal worlds. Thereafter, the inner and outer realms maintain an unresolved conflict in Hoffmann's fiction and life. The conflict remains inherently insoluble: Anselmus embraces the bourgeois world in Der goldne Topf and winds up trapped in a bottle; Elis pursues the ideal in Die Bergwerke zu Falun and, as Rudiger Safranski has pointed out, winds up equally "crystallized" in the vitriol water of the mines. Like the perfect fusion of music and poetry in opera, the inner and outer worlds remain in a perpetual state of tension.

Such tension, however, renders the dualism dynamic. The opposition between the gentle Ludwig and the bellicose Ferdinand passes into the poet's narrative, which describes a complacent humanity torn from the womb of nature by warfare. The concluding reference to "one Church" alludes tellingly to Schiller's dialectical prototype Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (On the Aesthetic Education of Man). Schiller had compared his chimerical "aesthetic State," which reconciled the opposing impulses of sense and reason, to "the pure Church and the pure Republic." Hoffmann's mysticism differs from Schiller's idealism, but the same dialectical engine drives both narratives. A similar dynamism runs through much of Romantic political thought. Novalis's Die Christenheit oder Europa, often cited as the epitome of regressive medievalism, actually portrays a restless vision of history:

Moreover, we are dealing with times and periods, and is not an oscillation, a fluctuation of opposite movement not essential to these? and is not a limited term peculiar to them, a growth and a decline to their nature? but also a resurrection, a rejuvenation equally to be expected? progressive, ever increasing evolutions are the stuff of history.

Nor does Adam Müller's Elemente der Staatskunst demand a total restoration of power from the bourgeoisie to the aristocracy but urges instead a balance between the two "elements." While political Romanticism could certainly descend to legitimist propaganda, the most thoughtful examples accommodate the positive gains of the Enlightenment and Revolution, whether in Novalis's cyclical model, Müller's theory of opposites, or Hoffmann's dialectic. The same balance, as Uwe Schadwill has shown, would also characterize Hoffmann's political views as a jurist: "He rejects the Restoration state, with its indolent society, yet places no greater faith in violent revolutionary changes."

In the end Hoffmann's personal political beliefs do not particularly matter to this studyñany more than his religious beliefs matter to his discussion of Catholic church music. Whatever his private convictions, he participated in the public transmission of a discourse that intimately linked political and aesthetic thought. Indeed, he extended the Romantic political code by translating its ideals into musical terminology. Let us return to the Fifth Symphony review and see how such an aesthetic came to terms with Beethoven's heroic style.

A Romanticized Hero

In a recent survey of patriotic literature in Napoleonic Prussia, Otto Johnston has identified a common paradigm underlying the patriotic writings of the authors sponsored by Baron Stein: "A program of national education, a focus on the language bond uniting the national group and a portrayal of the contemporary citizen as a link between a nation's past and future developmentñbecame the blueprint for the work of those authors who cooperated with Stein's political faction." While Hoffmann's muted political overtones scarcely match the bombast of a Fichte or Kleist, Johnston's trinity of education, language, and history proves an accurate template for the Fifth Symphony review.

The second element, language, comes into play with Hoffmann's opening assertion of music as a higher, spiritual language. From the outset he claims for music a realm in which humanity "leaves behind all feelings capable of conceptual definition, in order to give itself over to the unspeakable" (p. 34). As foils to Beethoven's art, he offers the Batailles des trois empereurs and Dittersdorf's imitative symphonies. These examples of musical iconism exemplify two prominent targets of nationalist polemics, France and her imitators in the German courts. Indeed, Hoffmann's argument replicates the claim of the nationalist authors that the German tongue possessed a unique power of expressing philosophical abstractions, as opposed to the shallow sensuality of French. As Fichte put it in the Reden: "The German speaks a language which has been alive ever since it first issued from the force of nature, while other Teutonic races speak a language which has movement on the surface only but is dead at the root."

Hoffmann's argument proceeds to Johnston's third element, history, establishing Beethoven's art within a proper Germanic lineage. While his famous apotheosis of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven has received much attention for its "romanticization" of the Viennese classicists, the actual literary form has escaped notice. Hoffmann locates the three composers within a dialectical progression, structured around the temporal metaphor of nightfall. He begins with Haydn, whose music dwells in the "splendor of sunset": "The expression of a childlike, serene sensibility reigns in Haydn's compositions. His symphonies lead us unto unbounded, green groves, in a cheerful, motley throng of humanity. . . . A life full of love, of bliss, as if before the Fall, in eternal youthfulness" (p. 35). The phrase "before the Fall" probably refers to Haydn's most famous work, The Creation, whose famous evocation of light fits neatly with Hoffmann's diurnal conceit. Mozart leads the way from Haydn's naive paradise into the "night of the spirit-world." Yet Mozart's music arouses only a "premonition of the infinite." It is Beethoven who penetrates to the inner darkness,

the realm of the monstrous and the immeasurable. Fiery beams shoot through the deep night of this realm, and we become aware of giant shadows that wave up and down, draw closer in upon us, and annihilate everything in us, except the pain of infinite yearning in which every desire that rushed upwards in jubilant tones sinks down and perishes; and only in this pain, in which love, hope, joy are consumed, but not destroyed, and which must burst our hearts with a full-throated chorus of all the passions, do we live on as enraptured spiritual visionaries. (p. 36)

Hoffmann's history of the Viennese instrumental style thus traces a path from the light of nature to an inner spiritual enlightenment. Imagery drawn from Christian mysticism emphasizes this redemptive path: the pain in which the emotions are "consumed, but not destroyed" recalls the holy fire of the medieval esoteric tradition, as does the via negativa, whereby the Absolute is approached solely through the elimination of positive, earthly traits. Hoffmann's spiritual history not only presents a "Romantic" cast of characters, but also follows a distinctively Romantic path of spiritual transcendence.

Hoffmann's chronicle of the musical spirit follows a narrative much beloved of his philosophical compatriots. Fichte's Characteristics of the Present Age (1804—5) had narrated a history of the human spirit in five stages, passing from instinctual behavior to the reign of "reason-art." Two years later Hegel published his landmark Phenomenology of Spirit, tracing the odyssey of Geist from sensory immediacy to absolute knowledge. Schelling's Philosophy and Religion (1804) and The Ages of the World (1811) trace the same redemptive history, drawing heavily upon the mystic tradition. Ernst Moritz Arndt proposed the most explicitly nationalist history of spirit in his Geist der Zeit (1806—13), in which Germanic culture plays the leading role. In common with these treatises, Hoffmann's musical history proceeds from an original state of nature (Haydn's pastoral world) to a redeemed "second nature" (Beethoven's higher spiritual reality). The narrative exemplifies what M.H. Abrams has termed the "circuitous journey," the path by which alienated spirit spirals toward a higher state of revelation; thus, Beethoven's music, having left behind all earthly light, ends by ushering in a mystical light, the "fiery beams (which) shoot through the deep night."

Johnston's final component, education, arrives with the central thesis of Hoffmann's review, Beethoven's Besonnenheit. The concept of Besonnenheit, as shown above, belongs to the ideals of Germanic Bildung advocated by the reformers. Hoffmann's argument takes on a familiar Francophobia as he sneers at those "aesthetic geometers" (Messkünstler) who "have often complained of the complete lack of true unity and inner coherence in Shakespeare" (p. 37). The defense of Shakespeare against the rigid unities of French Classicism had become a battleground for the German Romantics, most famously in A.W. Schlegel's Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Literatur published only the year before. As an antidote to such sterile theories, Hoffmann marshals a favorite Romantic symbol, comparing Beethoven's musical thought to the way "a lovely tree grows, with its blossoms and leaves, flowers and fruit, bursting from a single seed" (p. 37).

Proceeding to the actual analysis, we may gain a clearer picture of Hoffmann's Reich des Unendlichen. A term that recurs with almost hypnotic regularity throughout the review is das Ganze, the whole. No word better sums up Romantic political theory, whose central axiom was the spiritual totality of the state. The Romantics universally criticized the atomizing, mechanistic tendencies of enlightened liberalism, as expressed in laissez-faire economics, natural law, and contractual theories of the state. They idealized instead the interdependent, hierarchical relations of the medieval Ständesstaat. From Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (widely circulated in Friedrich Gentz's translation) they derived the notion of the "organic state," a metaphor developed in Novalis's Glauben und Liebe (1797), Schelling's Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studiums (1803), and, especially, Müller's Elemente. In opposition to liberalism, the Romantics upheld a vision of the state as an interconnected whole, in which each individual's interest was subordinated to the articulated structure of the whole organism. In this spirit Novalis had declared the state a "Makroanthropos," while Müller protested that

the state is not a mere factory, a farm, an insurance, institution or mercantile society; above all, it is the inward association of all physical and spiritual needs, of all physical and spiritual riches, of all the inner and outer life of a nation into one great, energetic, infinitely moving and living

Even Hegel, proceeding from the different premises of idealism,

Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and the individual's destiny is the living of a universal life.

Hoffmann himself professed a similar creed in a letter of 8 September 1813 to Kunz: "Don't dismiss my second motto, 'All is part of the whole,' from your mind and heart! Our faith in the hand that extends over the universe and knows, like a clever puppeteer, how to move every thread at the right time is very necessary in these times."

Hoffmann's celebrated analysis suggests the clearest musical correlate to this totalizing Romantic doctrine. "It is particularly the inner relationship of the individual themes to one another," he explains, "that produces the unity that holds fast one feeling in the listener's sensibility" (p. 50). He remarks of the opening of the symphony that

there is no simpler idea than that on which Beethoven has based his entire Allegro, and one perceives with astonishment how he was able to link all the subsidiary ideas and episodes to this simple theme by their rhythmic relation, so that they serve to unfold more and more the overall character of the movement, which that theme by itself could only hint at. (p. 43)

It is interesting that, for all his fascination with Beethoven's theme, Hoffmann remarks only on its negative qualities: its lack of harmonic definition ("even the key is not yet certain; the listener assumes E{fl} major"), and incompleteness ("one would believe that from such elements only something fragmentary and difficult to grasp could arise"). Likewise, his description of the second theme concerns not the character of the theme, but its larger role in the movement: "It is indeed melodious, yet still remains true to the character of anxious, unrestful yearning which the whole movement projects . . . with the result that the new theme becomes wholly woven into the whole texture" (p. 39). Hoffmann cares not about themes themselves, but how they develop; he neglects the part, but favors the whole.

Hoffmann's conception of theme admirably fits some of Beethoven's music. The Violin Concerto, for instance, begins with an indistinct, barely audible tympani motive that rises to startling prominence over the course of the movement. Yet the head motive of the Fifth Symphony is another matter entirely. Etched in stark unison and marked off by fermatas, it veritably shrieks to be heard for its own sake and not merely as a part of some greater whole. Hoffmann's account registers none of the traits that lend the theme its impact: the impetuous upbeat rhythm, the unsettling pauses, the fatalistic downward pull of the line from dominant towards the tonic, the insistent hammering on one pitch, which Beethoven could liken to fate beating on the door. No mere "hint," the opening theme defines, nay, creates the character of the movement. Something crucial to Beethoven's work goes glimmering in Hoffmann's pursuit of das Ganze.

While Hoffmann shows little interest in thematic character, he pays close attention to thematic construction and development. He remarks of the various ideas in the finale that they "are more broadly treated than the preceding ones; they are less melodious than forceful and susceptible to contrapuntal imitation" (p. 48). Of the scherzo he notes that "it is primarily the singular modulations; cadences in which the major dominant chord, whose root the bass takes up as the tonic of the following minor theme; the theme itself that continually expands by several measuresñthat project the character of Beethoven's music posited above" (p. 45). Describing the second theme of the finale, Hoffmann homes in on a trivial harmonic detail, claiming that "through this theme and its further development through A minor to C major the sensibility is plunged again into that foreboding mood that receded but momentarily amid the rejoicing and jubilation" (p. 48). The overall design of the wholeñcounterpoint, harmony, phrase structureñmatters to Hoffmann, not the character of the individual parts.

Hoffmann's bias makes sense in the light of "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik," where he draws a distinction between two opposing musical aesthetics. The "pagan-antique" aesthetic, based upon Aristotelian mimesis, treats music as a vehicle of human expression; the "Christian-modern," following the Pythagorean model, treats music as the reflection of a higher supernatural order. (This distinction, as Carl Dahlhaus has pointed out, revives not only the recent querelles des anciens et moderns but the hoary debate over prima and seconda prattica.) "Pagan-antique" music exalted melody above all, as the representation of human speech. Jean-Jacques Rousseau best summed up this mimetic aesthetic: "By the imitating the inflections of the voice, melody expresses pity, cries of sorrow and joy, threats and groans"; harmony, he declared, "shackles melody, draining it of energy and expressiveness. It wipes out passionate accent, replacing it with the harmonic interval." "Christian-modern" music, on the other hand, aspired to the transcendent unity of harmony. As Hoffmann rhapsodized,

The love the consonance of all things spiritual in nature that is promised to the Christian, expresses itself in chords that first awoke to life with Christianity; and thus chords, harmony become the image and expression of the spiritual fellowship, of the union with the eternal, the ideal, which reigns over us yet embraces us.

Hoffmann stays true to his aesthetic convictions in the Fifth Symphony review. He ignores the mimetic, gestural content of Beethoven's themes and focuses instead on the underlying sources of musical unity. The Pythagorean bias also helps to explain his seemingly inexhaustible fascination with harmonic analysis.

A distaste for neoclassical aesthetics may also explain Hoffmann's almost total indifference to the dramatic structure of Beethoven's symphony. He passes nonchalantly over the most electrifying events in the symphony. Of the catastrophic recapitulation of the first movement he merely notes that "the whole orchestra with tympani and trumpets enters with the main theme, in its original form" (p. 42). He ignores entirely the extraordinary return of the scherzo. Hoffmann fully understood the principles of sonata form (as demonstrated, for instance, by his review of Friedrich Witt's Fifth Symphony), but his spiritualized conception of Beethoven's work has no room for such earthly drama. His conception of "infinite longing" precludes any demarcations of form whatsoever; as Robin Wallace notes, "at no point does Hoffmann distinguish an actual thematic statement . . . [but only] connecting material, separating and developing the important thematic events of the movement." This appears in his peculiar reaction to the finale coda. Unlike most critics, he heard no sense of finality in the incessant tonic chords, but only "a fire which flares up in bright flames after one had believed it extinguished" (p. 50). From Hoffmann's "Christian-modern" viewpoint, the Fifth Symphony appears less as a linear trajectory than as a state of timeless, spiritual yearning. If this seems a peculiarly static reading, we must recall that he is approaching Beethoven's text with an aesthetic best suited to a Palestrina motet.

The one formal event that impresses Hoffmann is the beginning of the C-major finale, which he describes as "a beaming, dazzling shaft of sunlight that suddenly illuminates the depths of the night" (pp. 47—48). This passage, however, echoes his earlier history of the Viennese school, which narrative had culminated in Beethoven's "realm of the monstrous and immeasurable," where "fiery beams shoot through the deep night of this realm." Hoffmann has conflated music history with musical form, mapping his spiritual chronicle onto the course of the symphony. Thus, paradoxically, he can interpret the most visceral, dramatic event in the symphony as a moment of purely spiritual transcendence.

This passage exposes a central problem of Romantic political writingñhow to inscribe an eternal Absolute within a dynamic modern discourse. Hoffmann wants to portray the climax of the symphony as a mystical transcendence of the temporal realm. Yet his language partakes of images of violence, revolution, and forceñimages, moreover, that are clearly inspired by Beethoven's score. Hoffmann's metaphysics is betrayed by the very artwork he seeks to canonize. The same paradox appears in Novalis and Schlegel, Müller and Kleist. They propound a timeless medievalism, yet argue in the dialectical modes of the late eighteenth century; they preach against the Revolution, but cannot (or will not) escape its tug in their writing. From this tension between idea and expression, eternity and history, Romantic political thought takes its convoluted shape.

The unendliche Sehnsucht that so moved Hoffmann in the Fifth Symphony assumed explicitly political connotations elsewhere in his writings. In the conclusion to "Alte und neue Kirchenmusik" he contrasts the base worldly desires of the present age with pure spiritual yearning, in which "the obliviousness of all our inverted strivings, of all our captivity to earthly drives after earthly goals is so plainly revealed, in which the spirit, as though illuminated by a heavenly bolt, recognizes its home, and in this recognition gains courage and strength to bear, even to resist, its earthly travails." Spiritual Sehnsucht becomes a call to arms against an enemy whose identity can scarcely be mistaken. Similar imagery reappears in the rousing finish of Der Dichter und der Komponist, where the soldier-poet Ferdinand exults that "the golden doors are open, and with a single ray knowledge and art enkindle that holy striving that unites mankind into one church." In Die Vision auf dem Schlachtfeld bei Dresden, Hoffmann inverts the imagery to portray the diabolical tyrant, Napoleon. As the emperor wanders about the battlefield, a host of fallen soldiers rise in judgment:

Then the voices shrieked again:

"Depraved one! Do not mock the power that sends death. Look above you!"

Yet still the tyrant directed his gaze downward; staring instead at the earth, he spoke:

"Madmen, what do you seek over my head?ñnothing above me!ñthe dark space up there is empty, for I myself am the power of vengeance and death."

The "dark space up there" is precisely the realm that Hoffmann sought to reclaim, with Beethoven as explorer and conquistador.

Hoffmann's Geisterreich has taken shape thus far as an organic collective, subordinated in every detail to totalizing structures and inspired throughout by a pure heavenly yearning. Not surprisingly, Hoffmann disdains democracy. Haydn, he concedes, "romantically apprehends the humanity in human life; he is more congenial to the majority;" not so Beethoven, whose instrumental music "rarely appeals to the crowd" (p. 36). In his reworking of the symphony review in Kreisleriana, Hoffmann admires the way "Beethoven's mighty genius oppresses the musical rabble; they rebel in vain against it;" a few sentences later he asserts that Beethoven "separates his Ego [Ich] from the inner realm of sounds and rules over it as unlimited lord [unumschränkter Herr]." Hoffmann is resorting here to Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre (as filtered through Jean-Paul Richter), which portrayed the Ich in a constant struggle for mastery over the nicht-Ich. While the radical young Fichte of 1794 had once compared the nicht-Ich to the structures of the ancien régime, Hoffmann has turned the Ich inward against the subjects of the realm. But, again, by 1811 Fichte's own outlook had shifted so far to the right that he could write, "Good governments make good majorities."

In Hoffmann's musical autocracy, criticism assumes a vital new role. No longer a guardian of public taste, the critic now mediates the mysteries of an elite art to the unwashed. In another borrowing from Jean-Paul (himself paraphrasing Lessing), Hoffmann declares that "Romantic taste is rare, Romantic talent rarer," turning the tables on enlightened criticism:

But the wise judges, gazing about with a self-important air, offer assurance: one may trust their judgment as men of great understanding and deep insight. . . . But how is it, that the inner, deep structure of all Beethoven's compositions escapes your feeble gaze? Has it not dawned upon you that you do not understand the master's language, understood only by the initiated, when to you the portals of the most holy sanctuary remain shut?

The true critic has become an initiate in a priesthood, capable of interpreting the "hieroglyphs" (Hoffmann's favorite term for musical notation) of the genius. The role Hoffmann assigns the critic might best be compared to the Prussian civil servant. Charlton has noted the "legalistic rigor and detail" of Hoffmann's analysis, and his meticulous argumentation shows the hand of the professional jurist. Critic and civil servant alike mediate between the absolute monarch and his people. And in both cases, the process flows in one directionñvon oben nach unten.

The contours of a political model thus emerge from the language of Hoffmann's criticism. We behold a harmonious, spiritually unified collective ruled over by an absolute monarch and mediated by an elite intelligentsia. It is a fair prediction of the course that German political life would take in the nineteenth century. The culture of German art music also developed along the same lines, giving rise to the cult of the autonomous genius who composes in disregard for public opinion, and whose wishes must be reverently interpreted by an elite class of conductors, performers, and critics. To the extent that this model retains its hold on modern musical life, we remain Hoffmann's heirs.

The Premature Portrait

"Our kingdom is not of this world, say the musicians." So said Hoffmann, and so have said generations of musicians to this day. Yet the very act of saying belies the claim. To limn his mystical Geisterreich, Hoffmann had to dip his pen in the sordid inkpot of human language. When we fixate on the description of his spirit realm, an earthly image comes into focusña tapestry of wars, nations, political strivings, and cultural polemics. Ironically, Hoffmann's myth of the musical absolute founders on the very work he proposes as the paragon of metaphysical music. The sheer materiality of the Fifth Symphony, with its unrelenting rhythms, triumphal marches, and dramatic trajectory, exposes the cracks and fissures in Hoffmann's impossible aesthetic.

Yet Hoffmann's review pays unexpected dividends toward our understanding of Beethoven's music. In 1809, only months after the premiere of the Fifth Symphony, Austria began its own Befreiungskrieg, and the composer who had once dedicated a symphony to Napoleon began working on patriotic works for the allies. During this same year new currents entered Beethoven's musical language, drawing the heroic style in a decidedly Romantic direction. By the 1820s Beethoven had perfected a style that uncannily matches the specifications of Hoffmann's critical model. The late works operate at the highest level of metaphysical abstraction; they draw on the archaic resources of the "Christian-modern" past; they exhibit the most rigorous contrapuntal learning; and they teem with esoteric motivic networks running beneath the surface of theme and form. Hoffmann's portrait of Beethoven is not so much inaccurate as premature.

Indeed, Hoffmann's review proves most illuminating at precisely those spots where his aesthetic model seems most to conflict with Beethoven's text. As we watch the critic forcing the Fifth Symphony into his Romantic mold, we get a preview of the way the composer himself would modify his style under the spell of Romanticism. The same tensions and paradoxes that appear in Hoffmann's reading will appear in Beethoven's late works, as new and old aesthetic ideals collide. While it may seem absurd to view the Fifth Symphony through the lens of the Palestrinan ars perfecta, the same approach makes all kinds of sense for the Ninth Symphony or late quartets.

And in Hoffmann's prescient criticism lies the key to a new political interpretation of Beethoven's late works. We need no longer trace the abstraction and spirituality of Beethoven's late works to a disillusionment with the Restoration, or a retreat from Metternich's police state. By 1810 a musical aesthetic matching the late style had already crystallized, long before any cynicism had set in. Forged from German Romanticism as a cultural weapon against France, this aesthetic emerged during a time of widespread patriotism, an age that intimately connected spiritual reform and political meliorism. This study of Hoffmann may therefore serve as prolegomenon to the task ahead: to discover in the "absolute music" of Beethoven's late works a kingdom that is of this world.