In the mid-1830s, Henri Herz (1803–88) was an internationally renowned pianist, but his reputation today, for the most part, is that of a second-rate musician who wrote trivial variations on opera themes. This enduring picture of Herz was painted first in France in 1834 by the Gazette musicale. The Gazette’s campaign has been understood by modern scholars as a conspicuous moment in a broad aesthetic shift away from French salon music and toward high German Romanticism, and the Gazette has garnered praise for its prescience. But a closer examination of the Gazette’s articles, the events surrounding the coverage such as a pistol duel and a libel case, contemporary correspondence, and Herz’s publishing record indicate that the Gazette’s negative treatment of Herz was not an organic assessment of his output, but rather a revenge scheme orchestrated by the Gazette’s owner and Herz’s former publisher, Maurice Schlesinger (1798–1871). As a case study, the Gazette’s Herz campaign exposes the endemic corruption of the nineteenth-century press that has been portrayed as an unseemly rarity rather than a central component of historical criticism’s production. But taken more broadly, the Gazette’s articles on Herz highlight limitations in the history of reception. This article turns to media studies to explore the problematic relationship between propaganda and reception and shows how the Gazette, and other nineteenth-century journals, are still manipulating our cognition.
Propaganda and Reception in Nineteenth-Century Music Criticism: Maurice Schlesinger, Henri Herz, and the Gazette musicale
Shaena B. Weitz holds a PhD in musicology from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, and she specializes in cultural studies of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century France, including music journalism and media studies, virtuosity and celebrity, and historically informed performance and creative practices. Her research has been supported by a CUNY Dissertation Year Fellowship and the Elizabeth C. Bartlet grant from the American Musicological Society, and her work has appeared in Piano Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris and Musical Quarterly. Her current book project, provisionally entitled Rescinding Genius, examines fame and publicity in the early nineteenth century.
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Shaena B. Weitz; Propaganda and Reception in Nineteenth-Century Music Criticism: Maurice Schlesinger, Henri Herz, and the Gazette musicale. 19th-Century Music 1 July 2019; 43 (1): 38–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2019.43.1.38
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