German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century (Routledge Studies in Musical Genres)

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Understood as a negotiated space of shared experiences and practices, the concept of cosmopolitanism has the potential to offer a fresh, context-based, historical interpretation of a nineteenth-century, European-centered music production through its multiple flows beyond its places of origin.

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But the focus on cosmopolitanism can drive bolder ideas with implications that go beyond a mere suggestion of historiographical review. They show how ideas acquired wings, as Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand realized in But Wagner also transformed his works, and his ideas about his works, into borderless commodities and had a strong hand in making them a worldwide phenomenon.

The success of his enterprises shows his understanding of the sociopolitical and cultural transformations of Europe at midcentury and is a tangible example that not only ideas but also artistic works could navigate the complex forces of an increasingly connected nineteenth century. As part of both a universalizing humanistic plot inherited from the eighteenth century and a corollary to the nineteenth-century political realization of the nation, the concept of cosmopolitanism can thus prove fruitful for explorations of a nuanced musical ecology during a time in which imperial expansion, technological advances, the growth of global capitalism, and the increasing complexities of urban life multiplied the possibilities and the needs for border crossing and facilitated cross-cultural encounters and reflections.

It is telling, however, that the association of music with the politics of nationalism and the construction of national identity has taken precedence in explorations of nineteenth-century musical practices. Nonetheless, avoiding the entanglements of a cosmopolitan network and its contradictory position toward the politics of nationalism, twentieth-century discourses about music continued to approach cosmopolitanism in music during the nineteenth century as nothing but an opposite to nationalism, as a stigmatized term with snobbish or racial undertones, or as a practice that would eventually corrupt the lineage of pure national musics.

To be sure, the political force of nations and ideologies of nationalism did leave a strong mark on ways of understanding music practices during the nineteenth century, a topic that has been widely explored in the literature. However, more often than not discourses about music, nation, and culture in nineteenth-century Europe have been not only one-sided, but also, to an extent, contradictory. The degree to which these anxieties intensified as the nineteenth century progressed paralleled the pace at which the cosmopolitan presence became more conspicuous—due in part to the technological improvements that enabled wider and faster circulation of information.

As Bruce Robbins noted, the dynamics of music and cosmopolitanism in the nineteenth century were ultimately an outgrowth, or ideological reflection, of global capitalism, a context too often associated with a twentieth-century malaise. The expansion of global capitalism during the nineteenth century led to a shift from localized and private to public support for musical practices, as well as to a growing relationship between music and markets shaped by fashion, geared toward profits, and dependent on new social relations and connections beyond local and national borders.

Richard Wagner was not the first, and the only one, to attempt to make himself relevant and powerful within a complex, connected world that moved in unprecedented directions. In general, musicians working in the theater, a commercial enterprise from its inception, understood the potential of music to seize the attention of various audiences and worked toward that goal. But composers devoted to instrumental music, a medium that can operate beyond the immediate context of verbal language, were also conscious of the need to blur the lines between and among nations and locality.

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In fact, most artists and musicians during the nineteenth century, including those touted as pillars of national traditions, were confronted with and challenged by music markets and the need to make music meaningful both nearby and far away, and to navigate the borders of various spheres of their political, social, and cultural lives. But the concept of cosmopolitanism is most often evoked in music literature when musicians make incursions into European cities to find a cosmopolitan urban space, to become cosmopolitans, to re produce cosmopolitan musics, and in the end, to contribute to the growth of a dominant identity matrix centered on a few cities.

From this perspective, cosmopolitanism is touted as a static practice that is difficult to define in musical terms, unless it is tackled as a homogeneous musical style associated with one place and believed to belong to specific composers. The badge of cosmopolitan may serve as a new modus operandis within the quest for canonic recognition. One should assume that cultural hybridity happens. More often than not, these approaches tend to enforce what they are supposed to interrogate.

And while this might be exactly the case in most instances, as a large literature has demonstrated, the dominance of cultural relativism in social sciences has offered very few tools to move beyond normative studies about cultural distinctiveness and to allow for considerations about larger patterns of cultural relationships. I believe that cosmopolitanism, as the concept has recently been re defined in the social sciences, is most productive to address nineteenth-century music practices when it is evoked as a way of confronting modernity and reflecting on its connected, shared cultural practices.

The cosmopolitan lens can serve to elucidate large and ever-changing patterns of cultural movements not bound by the nation or by locality, to explore cultural expressions resulting from shared perceptions of the world and shared spaces of cultural attachments and detachments that ultimately come to exist beyond the marketability of cultural capital.

As a flexible signifier not bound by language, music can serve us particularly well in these explorations. What does the practice say about the music, about the process, and about those near and those far? For example, Gillen Darcy Wood explores virtuosity as an outgrowth of and a response to both markets and technology.

German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

One can suggest that Italian bravura singing offered a take on the voice as part of the mechanics of the era, and composers dedicated melodies that emphasized the visual aspects of the culture of idolatry through the voice. These welcome studies have opened paths for redeeming nineteenth-century modernity from the confines of the politics of nationalism. Considering cosmopolitanism as a nineteenth-century experience and practice allows us to contemplate music practices originating in Europe beyond its Europeaness.

But one should go further and address cosmopolitanism as an ideal that was articulated through a complex interplay of shared aesthetic modes of reflection and collective creativity. If markets and technological advances in communication made possible the crossing of borders, engagements with cultural difference, and the extension of social belongings, they also supported shared spaces of aesthetic expressions and perceptions of the universal.

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  • The relevance of cosmopolitanism for explorations of nineteenth-century musical practices rests on the assumption that not only musical production and consumption, but also aesthetic stances and creative solutions, were shared and negotiated by many beyond geographical boundaries and the confines of politics of national cultural belonging. Papastergiadis proposes an exploration of the aesthetic dimension of cosmopolitanism, as well as a consideration of the cosmopolitan worldview that is produced through aesthetics.

    Alberto Nepomuceno — lived through the trenches of a complex nineteenth-century musical world. His personal and professional life also led to connections with Edward Grieg and Gustav Mahler. Like many of his contemporaries, Nepomuceno had aspirations to write music for a large audience, both local and far away, and to belong to a music world as he perceived it: one that was shaped in Europe and that, he believed, had the potential to be universal. But Nepomuceno was not a citizen of, nor did he have political commitments to, any of the European countries in which he lived.

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    At thirty years of age he moved across the Atlantic and spent his life far from European audiences in large concert and opera halls, away from the scrutiny of powerful publishers and critics. The few publications of his music during his lifetime seldom made it to the coveted venues in Europe; only a few of his works were heard in Europe, although some were performed in his home country, mostly as part of an imagined legacy that fulfilled local nationalistic agendas. At the same time, Nepomuceno lived in a coastal capital city with a large port opened historically, politically, and commercially to Europe.

    The city was in many ways like many others during the nineteenth-century: an urban conglomerate and part of a larger system of political and economic expansion and technological modernization of Europe. His life was thus set in a hub of nineteenth-century urban cultural connections, and within this context he became an accomplished composer who acquired a solid position as the leader of a local musical establishment. Nepomuceno could partake of the promises and disillusionments of modernity that were inescapable to his generation, from the technological advances that connected audiences and that fueled the rise of public entertainment, to the angst caused by the globalizing effects of a bloating capitalism, to the fast growth of political nationalism.

    Like many artists of his generation, Nepomuceno was attentive to avant-garde movements and to new modes of interaction and experiences in a period of global conflicts, commercial expansion, and unprecedented cultural connections. Beginning with its origin in the literary and musical culture of Germany in the nineteenth-century, the book covers individual composers, including Shubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler and Wolf, the literary sources of lieder, the historical and conceptual issues of song cycles, and issues of musical technique and style in performance practice.

    Written by eminent music scholars in the field, each chapter includes detailed musical examples and analysis. The second edition has been revised and updated to include the most recent research of each composer and additional musical examples. German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century. Yet nothing could be further from my true intentions. As a singer as well as a scholar, I am a fervent lied enthusiast, as are many musicians and musical scholars.

    To put it plainly, in the repertory of the nineteenthcentury German lied one finds a tremendously rich vein of musical beauty. Its that simple! Here is musical expressiveness in crystallized form, the operation of musical elementsmelody, harmony, rhythm, vocal and piano timbrein a condensed time frame. By operation, I mean not only the describable, chartable course of technical musical events though these events and their analysis constitute an important and satisfying part of the musicians study , but also the emotional concomitants of the lied, the affective content that we all feel and that scholars are growing less reluctant to talk about.

    Nearly every major and minor composer wrote songs, and for many their songs are among their best efforts. For some, such as Schubert and Mahler, the lied was a central genre, without which our perception of these composers would be disfigured. For others, such as Hensel, Franz, and Wolf, the lied was their almost exclusive arena of activity, without which they would practically disappear from music history. For still others, such as Schumann and Brahms, song was one part of a balanced, multifaceted compositional program, yet one without which the physiognomy of nineteenth-century music would not be the same.

    In short, only at the peril of gross musical ignorance and immense aesthetic loss does one neglect this repertory.

    German Lieder in the nineteenth century [electronic book] /

    It is not the purely musical elements alone, but their combination with the verbal text and the interaction with the singer that set the art song apart and imbue it with some of its most special and attractive qualities. Although chamber music has the intimacy of a song recital and opera the beauty of the human voice, in neither is there the unique bond of eye contact between musician and audience.

    Singers and instrumentalists alike acknowledge this crucial distinction. The young singer finds this one of the hardest things to become accustomed to. A good song recitalist becomes the persona in the poem-song and engages each member of the audience in the shared lyrical experience of poet and composer see Chapter 10 below and Cone , and To use a hackneyed but apt expression, the singer bares her or his soul and draws the sympathetic beholder-listener into an aesthetic, psychological, and emotional experience evoked by the words and mediated by the music.

    For some, the words get in the way of the music. But for others, this apparent drawback is the very thing that keeps the lied potent. The lied invites us, as in no other common modern situation beyond school and college classrooms , to read poetry. It enlivens thoughts and feelings, delineated by the text, that we thought were no longer part of our sensibilities. The music insinuates them, and we discover that this medium defines and releases feelings that are not so outdated or superseded as we may have thought. Consider: Did we once believe that technology and contentTechnicolor, wide screens, flawless special effects with computer-generated images, fast-paced editing, sexual and linguistic explicitness, graphic violencehad rendered the great movies of the s and 40s second rate, outmoded, and irrelevant?

    We need not depend for our enjoyment on a museum recreation of what lieder meant when they were new; with intelligence and imagination we can find readings that still speak to us today. Through lieder, many musicians have their only significant contact with German literature other than a novel or two in translation the native literature of many of the most important and beloved composers in the Western European canon.

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    This is the body of philosophy, prose fiction, drama, and poetry that together with its English counterparts gave voice to the cultural consciousness named Romanticism. Though no one challenges the existence of Romanticism in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Europe, it admits no easy definition dependent on a simple set of traits. An understanding of this phenomenon is best formed inductively, through the slow accretion of impressions.

    There could be no better place to start than with the poetry and music of the German lied. Here one encounters Goethe and Schiller, the collectors and imitators of German folk poetry, and other poets of the first Romantic generation; then their successorsthe spiritual symbolist Eichendorff, the balladist Uhland, and the hard-surfaced and curiously modern Heine, to name but a few. These figures, though active and frequently set to music well before midcentury, persist into the songs of Brahms, Wolf, Strauss, and Mahler.

    Many who are considered lesser figures by literary historians and critics were nevertheless prized and set to musicfor example, the poet Friedrich Rckert, who was favored especially by Schumann and Mahler. And the pianist? Far from serving as a mere accompanist, the pianist who delves into lieder will soon discover what balanced partners voice and instrument are, and how crucial to the total effect of the song the piano writing is and how gratifying it is to play. By the same token, the singer should not think her- or himself the sole focus of the audiences attention, but must learn the mutual attentiveness and pleasure of chamber musicmaking.

    This is a great time to be studying German lieder. In the first place, reports of the death of the genre have been greatly exaggerated.