Mihaela Irina

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


James Deaville


During the 19th century, due to cultural, economical and social conditions, there were significant changes in the direction and the aesthetic status of music. While a program aesthetically justified became a necessary element for many composers, music became a necessary element in aesthetic theories. Over the decades the ideological support of music as art gained in importance, determining music to be considered the most important artistic manifestation. I argue that the communication between musicians and philosophers made possible mutual influences between their theoretical approaches to music.

In order to investigate the mutual influences between the musicians and philosophers of the 19th century, my first two chapters investigate the extant ideas in the areas of music criticism and aesthetics, Thus, I analyze the ideas of Eduard Hanslick, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner as representative figures of the debate between the promoters of absolute and program music. The evolution of the status of music, from being ranked the lowest amongst the arts and considered simple entertainment, to the most important art, which offers relief from the suffering and pain caused by existence, is examined in the theories of Immanuel Kant, W. J. Schelling, G. W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche.

The third chapter uncovers the ideological influences between the theories and ideas of several musicians and philosophers. Thus, I show how Hanslick was influenced by Kant, Liszt by Hegel, Wagner by Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche by Wagner. Writings, reviews and letters provide relevant examples. My analysis shows that both philosophers and musicians gradually recognized the crucial role of music for human existence and that they strengthened their ideologies by relying on each other's developing thought on music, in the attempt to achieve the most relevant form of expression through music, as a highly significant human activity.

McMaster University Library

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