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Matthias Thiemel

distort the sense of the text. Beethoven directed his publisher to ‘have all the p , pp , cresc., decresc., f and ff crossed out of my opera- none of them will be observed, after all, and if I were to hear them, I would lose all desire to write anything else’. Similar complaints have come down to us from C.P.E. Bach, Mozart, Wagner, Mahler, Pfitzner and other composers. In 1924 Richard Strauss lamented the tendency towards louder, less refined dynamics: ‘Incompetent conductors, over-large opera houses, and sad to say, a lack of taste on the part of the general public


Leon Botstein

of the present, particularly in the context of rising rates of literacy and the expansion of the audience well beyond the ranks of the 18th-century aristocracy. Wagner himself used the term ‘modern’ in 1849 as an epithet directed against Meyerbeer as a way of characterizing grand opera’s cheap concession to popular and philistine taste. Art was being debased by those who sought to celebrate and exploit the spiritually corrupt aspects of modern life, including trade, industry and journalistically manipulated public opinion. From the mid-century, however, following