The intellectual boom at the turn of the 19th century
During recent years it has become fashionable to discover the legacy of the
turn of the century. Vienna has become particularly fashionable for art
nouveau, psychoanalysis, Viennese music, and its delightful decline as the
capital of the dual monarchy. It is not generally known, however, that Budapest
also had an intellectual boom at the turn of the century. The young Bartók and
Gustav Mahler were teaching at the Academy of Music at the same time, and the
magnificent buildings of the Hungarian art nouveau were completed in quick
succession. In Vienna, decay could be felt in its intellectual life: the
imperial city was rooted in the political power of the monarchy, but this power
had been already weakened. In Budapest, however, there was no sense of decay.
The city was feeding upon the growth of the Hungarian economy which still had
great élan. Rapid development suppressed the sense of danger. Budapest was a
dynamic, extremely optimistic city right until the final collapse.