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Reviewed by:
  • Barockoper in Leipzig (1693–1720)
  • Tanya Kevorkian
Barockoper in Leipzig (1693–1720). By Michael Maul. 2 vols. (Rombach Wissenschaften, Reihe Voces, Bd. 12.) Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 2009. [1184 p. ISBN 9783793095842. €128.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

In this massive dissertation, Michael Maul makes a major contribution to placing Leipzig on the map of well-researched centers of baroque secular music. Maul's stated goal (p. 33) is to provide a basis for further research on the Leipzig opera by assessing the hitherto known historiography and source situation, to find and assess new sources, to give an impression of scores, and to determine the names of composers, librettists, and producers. Maul goes well beyond this, however, by reconstructing important aspects of German baroque musical culture more generally. Research institutions and music schools should acquire this book; other libraries will also find it useful.

Maul's method is to keep an eye first and foremost on sources about a particular aspect of the history of the Leipzig Opera, and to build a discussion on the basis of those sources. In the process, he provides a thorough review of the previous state of research and of new discoveries, identifying possible authors and composers of hitherto unattributed works, as well as those participating in their stagings. His discussions sometimes seem too exhaustive; but there is an intelligent and well-informed thought process at work on almost every page of the text, and it is interesting to follow his detective work even when one is not particularly interested in a particular issue.

Research on J. S. Bach informs Maul's approach in different ways. Maul is based at the Leipzig Bach-Archiv, an important collaborative research center. His job there has involved traveling to archives and libraries around central Germany in search of new sources relating to Bach. That search, which has produced important new finds, helped give him a familiarity with sources, places, and research methods, which is a huge asset to this text. The dissertation's first section, on sources, is arguably the most original, as Maul follows leads to repositories and figures both wellknown and obscure. Further, two prevailing [End Page 302] assumptions of much Bach research are carried over to this subject: first, that any fact, however minor, is worth determining and weighing; and second, that informed speculation can help one build at least possible scenarios.

The book is structured as follows. The introduction sets up the Leipzig opera house as being of at least the same artistic quality as its much better researched Hamburg counterpart, and reviews the existing literature. Maul's huge database of roughly five thousand aria incipits derived from the libretti of Leipzig operas guided him in his search through numerous archives, libraries, and published song collections; he was thus able to find no fewer than three hundred previously unidentified arias, including many by Telemann. The first section (about 150 pages) discusses sources, first libretti and then scores. Maul has to work around the lack of an opera archive or even its remnants, as well as the loss of most scores. However, he establishes the authorship of virtually every libretto from the Leipzig Opera during that period, as well as the identities of most singers from 1703 to 1709. He also discusses his discovery of numerous new arias. Maul continues with a running assessment of many other sources in the course of the book. Since so little music survives, most of the book deals with nonmusical sources, although there is some musical analysis when possible and appropriate.

The second section (about 120 pages) tells the institutional history of the opera house. Here Maul is able to build on existing studies, but also finds new information, especially in the Leipzig city archive. This is the least original section, and Maul sticks very close to the immediate institutional history of the house. However, the story is clearly told, and the intense conflict of the post-1700 period among the heirs of founder Nicholas Adam Strungk and others, the chronic indebtedness of the enterprise, and the growing physical decrepitude of the house, which neighbors and city councilors came to fear could be blown over by a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-150X
Print ISSN
0027-4380
Pages
pp. 302-304
Launched on MUSE
2010-12-10
Open Access
No
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