What is it about?

This article deals with questions of the sociopolitical involvement of classical music performance spaces. During the last twenty years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Gewandhaus in Leipzig provided opportunities for its users to emancipate themselves from Socialist Unity Party oppression. Through its architecture, music, and visual art, the Gewandhaus symbolized an agonistic space that aided in disrupting its sociopolitical surroundings, because it made visible what real-existing socialism was lacking: unity, openness, transparency, and internationality. Examining how the Gewandhaus interacted with its sociopolitical surroundings sheds light on its ability to engage with public discourse within the restricted society of the GDR.

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Why is it important?

The article demonstrates how cultural institutions can serve as a forum for public engagement and dialogue, and how they can be shaped by both internal and external factors. This analysis is particularly relevant in today's society, where cultural institutions are facing increasing pressure to be more accessible and relevant to a wider audience. By understanding the Gewandhaus as a model for public engagement and discourse, cultural institutions can learn from its history and experiences to better serve their communities.


I loved writing this article as I was able to interview the Masur family and visit the Gewandhaus itself.

Juliane Schicker
Carleton College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Concert Hall as Agonistic Public Space: The Gewandhaus in Leipzig, New German Critique, August 2022, Duke University Press,
DOI: 10.1215/0094033x-9734819.
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