When the question of the meaning of music was debated by the German Romantics, the idea began to emerge that there is an especially pure kind of music that would encapsulate what music really and truly means, without the ‘adulteration’ of words, dance or theatre. At a certain point critics and philosophers began to refer to absolute Tonkunst, the absolute art of sound, in order to distinguish the purely instrumental music of the concert hall, designed to be listened to in silence and presented in an atmosphere of reverential attention, from the applications of music in opera and song, in dance and Gebrauchmusik. The phrase probably first appears in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s celebrated review of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, in 1810. By then the claim had already been made – by Tieck, Wackenroder and others – that music offers access to the ‘transcendental’, its significance lying largely in its power to accomplish this.1