In his magisterial Lagrime di San Pietro (1595) Orlando di Lasso composed a cycle of 20 madrigals on texts by Luigi Tansillo on the theme of St Peter’s denial of Christ and his subsequent remorse, capped by a Latin motet (‘Vide homo’) representing the rebuke of the crucified Christ. The Lagrime may be seen as a penitential gesture on Lasso’s part, but a textual and musical analysis also suggests numerous parallels with contemporary Catholic spiritual exercises, particularly those of Ignatius of Loyola and Luis ofGranada. The cycle thus takes its place in a broader Counter-Reformation discourse of meditation and penance.
Figurations of woods as sites of solitude, political exile and authenticity are drawn upon in a number of John Dowland’s songs. ‘Can she excuse’ quotes from the ballad tune Woods so wild, while ‘O sweet woods’ makes reference to Wanstead woods, associated with both Philip Sidney and Robert Devereux during their lifetimes. This article examines how courtly experiences of political withdrawal and exile are articulated through musical and literary references to woods in these songs.
A comparison of the 1854 and 1891 versions of the Piano Trio in B, op. 8, explores how musical allusion can be interpreted to convey Johannes Brahms’s attitudes to critics, friends, other composers and his own past. The young Brahms’s attachment to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s literary alter ego Johannes Kreisler helps explain the extent to which the music of others makes itself heard in the first version of the trio. Changing standards of criticism affected the nature and scope of Brahms’s revision, which expunged perceived allusions; the older Brahms’s more detached compositional approach shared elements with Heinrich Schenker’s analytical perspective. There are also parallels between Brahms’s excisions and the surgical innovations of his friend and musical ally Theodor Billroth. Both Brahms and Billroth were engaged with the removal of foreign bodies in order to preserve organic integrity, but traces of others – and of the past – persist throughout the revised trio.
Far from being always unjustly neglected until the late twentieth century, as a recent view would have it, Berlioz’s music enjoyed dedicated attention and considerable admiration a century earlier. His orchestral works, in particular, were taken up by a range of skilful players and conductors in Britain from the 1870s, yielding performances in the English regions, the London suburbs and in Scotland that impressed ordinary listeners much more than many experienced ones. I argue that structural change and professional competition within the British concert industry to 1920 assisted this remarkable reception – largely ignored in the historiography of Berlioz’s reputation as well as in that of British musical culture – while imaginative musicians, astute promoters, writers and thousands of listeners continued to benefit from contact with his work. Berlioz’s challenging music indeed became an agent of aesthetic change in Britain – a benchmark, and a calling-card, of modern orchestral presentation that was both standard and commonly accessible before the First World War.