Philosophy in sound

The aesthetic theories of Moses Mendelssohn and Johann Georg Sulzer in the Berlin salon music of the 1750–80’s

Vera Plosila
berlin, enlightenment philosophy, galant style, historical performance practice, the sublime
Started in 2021



My research focuses on theories of the sublime by the Berlin Enlightenment philosophers Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86) and Johann Georg Sulzer (1720–79). Both were active in the group Montagsklub, whose other members included the playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, poet Karl Wilhelm Rammler, writer–composer Christian Gottfried Krause, flutist Johann Joachim Quantz and organist–singer Johann Friedrich Agricola. Closely associated to Montagsklub were also other court musicians, such as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The members discussed contemporary aesthetic thought from England, France and Germany. My first objective is to inquire, how the sublime was theorized in the circle during the 1750–70’s.

Mid-century Berlin also saw a growing esteem for instrumental music, which was strongly related to the time’s aesthetic preferences. The ineffable quality became an expressive asset in the time’s aesthetic thought. Thus, I want to discover, how an acquired sensibility towards the mid-century aesthetic theories can aid the performance of the Montagsklub circle’s instrumental chamber music.