It would be hard to name a country which has capitalized on its cultural legacy with such impunity as Austria has. To repeat a well-known joke: Having convinced us that Beethoven was Austrian and Hitler was German, the Austrians rake in the proceeds.

Of course, the Austrian approach to culture does indeed seem cynical when one considers the number of great musicians who went unappreciated there during their lifetimes and are now considered state heroes, among them Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, and Schoenberg. But despite such apparent opportunism, Austria’s extensive cultural administration has been primed to the dignity of its purpose, and awakened to the crucial role Austrian high culture has had to play in the support of a national identity.

One of the nice things about postwar Austria, in fact, has been the old-fashioned self-assurance of its cultural institutions— both public and...

 

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