California Studies in 19th-Century Music

Published by: University of California Press

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California Studies in 19th-Century Music

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Beethoven after Napoleon

Political Romanticism in the Late Works

Stephen Rumph

In this provocative analysis of Beethoven's late style, Stephen Rumph demonstrates how deeply political events shaped the composer's music, from his early enthusiasm for the French Revolution to his later entrenchment during the Napoleonic era. Impressive in its breadth of research as well as for its devotion to interdisciplinary work in music history, Beethoven after Napoleon challenges accepted views by illustrating the influence of German Romantic political thought in the formation of the artist's mature style. Beethoven's political views, Rumph argues, were not quite as liberal as many have assumed. While scholars agree that the works of the Napoleonic era such as the Eroica Symphony or Fidelio embody enlightened, revolutionary ideals of progress, freedom, and humanism, Beethoven's later works have attracted less political commentary. Rumph contends that the later works show clear affinities with a native German ideology that exalted history, religion, and the organic totality of state and society. He claims that as the Napoleonic Wars plunged Europe into political and economic turmoil, Beethoven's growing antipathy to the French mirrored the experience of his Romantic contemporaries. Rumph maintains that Beethoven's turn inward is no pessimistic retreat but a positive affirmation of new conservative ideals.

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Mimomania

Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera

Mary Ann Smart

When Nietzsche dubbed Richard Wagner "the most enthusiastic mimomaniac" ever to exist, he was objecting to a hollowness he felt in the music, a crowding out of any true dramatic impulse by extravagant poses and constant nervous movements. Mary Ann Smart suspects that Nietzsche may have seen and heard more than he realized. In Mimomania she takes his accusation as an invitation to listen to Wagner's music—and that of several of his near-contemporaries—for the way it serves to intensify the visible and the enacted. As Smart demonstrates, this productive fusion of music and movement often arises when music forsakes the autonomy so prized by the Romantics to function mimetically, underlining the sighs of a Bellini heroine, for instance, or the authoritarian footsteps of a Verdi baritone. Mimomania tracks such effects through readings of operas by Auber, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Verdi, and Wagner.

Listening for gestural music, we find resemblance in unexpected places: between the overwrought scenes of supplication in French melodrama of the 1820s and a cluster of late Verdi arias that end with the soprano falling to her knees, or between the mute heroine of Auber’s La Muette de Portici and the solemn, almost theological pantomimic tableaux Wagner builds around characters such as Sieglinde or Kundry. Mimomania shows how attention to gesture suggests a new approach to the representation of gender in this repertoire, replacing aural analogies for voyeurism and objectification with a more specifically musical sense of how music can surround, propel, and animate the body on stage.

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Music in Other Words

Victorian Conversations

Ruth A. Solie

Just as the preoccupations of any given cultural moment make their way into the language of music, the experience of music makes its way into other arenas of life. To unearth these overlapping meanings and vocabularies from the Victorian era, Ruth A. Solie examines sources as disparate as journalism, novels, etiquette manuals, religious tracts, and teenagers' diaries for the muffled, even subterranean, conversations that reveal so much about what music meant to the Victorians. Her essays, giving voice to "what goes without saying" on the subject—that cultural information so present and pervasive as to go unsaid—fill in some of the most intriguing blanks in our understanding of music's history.

This much-anticipated collection, bringing together new and hard-to-find pieces by an acclaimed musicologist, mines the abundant casual texts of the period to show how Victorian-era people—English and others—experienced music and what they understood to be its power and its purposes. Solie's essays start from topics as varied as Beethoven criticism, Macmillan's Magazine, George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, opera tropes in literature, and the Victorian myth of the girl at the piano. They evoke common themes—including the moral force that was attached to music in the public mind and the strongly gendered nature of musical practice and sensibility—and in turn suggest the complex links between the history of music and the history of ideas.

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