During the closing decades of the nineteenth century, the polemics between advocates of absolute and program music began to lose steam. The two sides continued to clash, but without the fervor that had characterized the debate in earlier decades. A new generation of composers and critics was inclined to accept the legitimacy of absolute and program music alike. Those who began their careers after 1880 tended to adopt a less polarizing attitude to explain the relationship between music’s essence and its effect. At the end of the century, relatively few subscribed to the idea that one repertory belonged to the past and the other to the future. The rhetoric of exclusion gradually gave way to one of tolerance.
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