In the summer of 1896, Carl Goldmark (1830–1915), a Viennese Jew of Hungarian origin, drafted an essay in which he wrote bitterly about fin-de-siècle anti-Semitism as he experienced it in the critical reception of his operas Das Heimchen am Herd and Die Königin von Saba. The late Austrian musicologist Gerhard J. Winkler characterized this extraordinary text “as [a] private confession of disillusionment, namely, the destruction of the lifelong illusion that Jews could seamlessly ‘assimilate’ . . . into German culture.” Yet Goldmark’s cri de coeur did not, in fact, remain off the record. In the spring of 1911, the Neue freie Presse, Vienna’s most influential assimilationist organ, published the bulk of it as “Thoughts on Form and Style (a Defense).” As I show through a close reading of this text and others in which the Jewish Question figures prominently, “Thoughts on Form and Style” eventually served as a spirited, public defense of Goldmark’s self-perception as a German composer—and this in an age of not only increasing anti-Semitism but also, because of that seemingly intractable prejudice, growing doubts in a younger generation of Central European Jews about the viability of the acculturation project itself.

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