During my PhD research at the University of Oxford, I discovered that music’s status as an art form was distrusted in the context of German idealist philosophy which exerted an unparalleled influence on the entire nineteenth century. Hegel insisted that the content of a work of art should be grasped in concepts in order to establish its spiritual substantiality (Geistigkeit), but no object, word or image could accurately represent the content and meaning of a musical work.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Friedrich Theodor Vischer and other Hegelian aestheticians kept insisting on art’s conceptual clarity, but they also adapted the aesthetic system on which it had been based. These adaptations turned out to be decisive for the development of nineteenth-century music criticism, to such an extent that music critics used them to point out musical content that safeguarded music’s autonomy as an art form. This research unravels the network of music critics and philosophers, including not only Hegel, but also Franz Liszt, Franz Brendel and Eduard Hanslick, whose works shaped public opinions of music. It has been published by Leuven University Press.