Analysis, Philosophy and the Challenge of Critical Theory: Michael Spitzer’s <i>Music as Philosophy: Adorno and Beethoven’s Late Style</i>


  • Julian Horton



beethoven, style, Waldstein


Michael Spitzer’s Music as Philosophy: Adorno and Beethoven’s Late Style (Indiana University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-253-34724-6) pursues multiple lines of scholarly enquiry. As a musicological study, the book advances an historicist agenda, which grounds the understanding of Beethoven’s music in an extension of its contemporaneous philosophical context. As a music-analytical study, it proposes an approach based on fluid philosophical and style-historical categories, and so opposes the quasi-scientific, theory-heavy strategies that increasingly dominate transatlantic music analysis. As a template for current scholarly practice, Music as Philosophy fights a rearguard action against the postmodern opprobrium that Adorno and his descendents have recently endured. This review article evaluates Spitzer’s study against the background of recent critical engagements with Adorno’s legacy, especially that advanced by Richard Taruskin, estimating the analytical efficacy of Spitzer’s Adornian apparatus, and appraising the defence of critical theory it mounts, in view of the postmodern hostility such modes of thought have of late provoked.

Author Biography

Julian Horton

Julian Horton is a Senior Lecturer in Music at University College Dublin. He completed his doctoral research at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he also held a Research Fellowship in Musicology from 1996 to 2000, and has taught both at the University of Cambridge and at King’s College, London. He is currently Critical Forum editor of Music Analysis and editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Symphony. Recent publications include: Bruckner’s Symphonies: Analysis, Reception and Cultural Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); ‘Schoenberg and the Moment of German Music’ in Music Analysis, 24/1-2; ‘Bruckner and the Symphony Orchestra’ in John Williamson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); ‘Recent Developments in Bruckner Scholarship’ in Music and Letters, 85/1 (2004); and ‘Postmodernism and the Critique of Musical Analysis’ in The Musical Quarterly, 85/2 (2001).




How to Cite

Horton, J. (2007). Analysis, Philosophy and the Challenge of Critical Theory: Michael Spitzer’s <i>Music as Philosophy: Adorno and Beethoven’s Late Style</i>. Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 3, 63–95.



Review articles