Early in 1904 the American modern dancer Isadora Duncan, already notorious for her barefoot “Greek dancing” to concert music not intended for the stage, created a scandal in Germany by presenting a program of dances to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Critics and composers responded in music journals and the daily press with a vigorous denunciation of Duncan’s trespass into the inner circle of German musical culture. What most disturbed Duncan’s critics, however, was the success of her Beethoven program with the public. Concern over Duncan’s hold on German audiences reveals the anxieties of professional musicians and critics whose status in Germany was also threatened by the popularity of music and dance entertainments in vaudeville and cabaret theater. Together with a musical parody of Duncan by Oscar Straus and a venomous attack by Max Reger, hostile reviews of Duncan illuminate serious musicians’ increasingly tenuous hold on the musical tastes of modern Bildungsbürger audiences.
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