“Arnold Schmitz as a Beethoven Scholar: Achievement and Impact”

Abstracts: New Beethoven Research Conference

New Orleans, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2012
Wednesday morning, October 31,9am-12:00pm, Bayside A
Helmut Loos
Professor, Universität Leipzig

“Arnold Schmitz as a Beethoven Scholar: Achievement and Impact”

Arnold Schmitz (1893-1980) released four stand-alone Beethoven publications between 1923 and 1927. Herein, he effectively documents that the value of scholarly work is not to be measured by sheer volume of books, but rather, by content. Aside from a small contribution to draft research[1]and in its best sense a popular science account of Beethoven’s life and work[2], Schmitz presented two fundamental texts: a significant piece on questions of compositional technique regarding theme and movement structure and their respective analytical examination [3]and a study on the reception of Beethoven[4], which gave way to the entire field of research on musical reception history.[5]

On the basis of an overview of Schmitz’s research, the astounding fact that a broad reception of his texts has not taken place will be addressed. Rather, critique has been voiced – despite a general recognition of his efforts[6].

First to be mentioned is Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, who in 1970 offered a content analysis of Beethoven literature based on terminology fields in Zur Geschichte der Beethoven-Rezeption. He attributes to Schmitz’s book, which he recognizes as being of “scholarly status and value”, the “conviction of immortality, timelessness and unrestricted current-day relevance of Beethoven, the ‘power and greatness’ of his ‘heroic music’ (p.179).”

First of all, it is disingenuous to suppress the adjective in a quote: Schmitz actually mentioned the “tectonic power and greatness of Beethoven’s music” which is based “on the recognition of a Christian world order that values religion and ethics above aesthetics”. This addition alone shows the invalidity of Eggebrecht’s argument when he claims that Schmitz interpreted Beethoven’s music as being eternally effective. Schmitz in fact never mentions this, but rather, attempts to examine the historic notion “Beethoven in his time” as best as critical historic research allows. Eggebrecht’s study, however, is to be questioned regarding its implicit preconceptions, as it allows for the notion of a national or even National Socialist appropriation to be considered only marginally.

The fact that Arnold Schmitz, as one of the few German music scholars free from National Socialist influence, has received little recognition yet a fair amount of criticism in the context of German Beethoven research is an astounding phenomenon, the causes of which will be examined. (One scholar to recognize Schmitz was Thomas Sipe.[7])

[1] Arnold Schmitz, Beethoven. Unbekannte Skizzen und Entwürfe. Untersuchung, Übertragung, Faksimile, Bonn 1924 (Publication of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, Volume 3).

[2] Arnold Schmitz, Beethoven, Bonn 1927 (Buchgemeinde Bonn. Belehrende Schriftenreihe, Volume 3),

[3] Arnold Schmitz, Beethovens „Zwei Prinzipe“. Ihre Bedeutung für Themen- und Satzbau, Berlin-Bonn 1923.

[4] Arnold Schmitz, Das romantische Beethovenbild. Darstellung und Kritik, Berlin-Bonn 1927, Darmstadt 1978.

[5] Also see Oliver Schwab-Felisch,  Art. „Schmitz, Arnold“, in: Beethoven-Lexikon, edited by Claus Raab and Heinz von Loesch, Laaber 2007, p. 653f.

[6] Compare Martin Wehnert, Art. Romantik und romantisch, in: MGG2. Sachteil, Volume. 8, Column. 475f.

[7] Thomas Sipe, Beethoven. Eroica Symphony, Cambridge 1998.