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  • Intimacy, Performance, and the Lied in the Early Nineteenth Century by Jennifer Ronyak
  • Christopher Parton
Intimacy, Performance, and the Lied in the Early Nineteenth Century. By Jennifer Ronyak. pp. xi + 237. (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2018. $35. ISBN 978-0-253-03576-9.)

The profoundly intimate nature of the nineteenth-century lied has long been central to the study of the genre. But as Jennifer Ronyak points out in this superb new book, such scholarship has often been reliant on text-centric hermeneutic methodologies that privilege the relationship between words and music above all else. Intimacy, Performance, and the Lied in the Early Nineteenth Century argues, instead, for a consideration of historical performance practices in the study of the early lied, which have the potential to 'overwrite meanings thought to be inherent in songs themselves' (p. 2). In doing so, Ronyak also addresses an aesthetic tension at the heart of the lied genre, one between its definitive interiority and the necessity of its outward expression. She coins the appropriately oxymoronic term 'intimate expression' for this type of audience-oriented subjectivity. The philosophical, social, and generic implications of 'intimate expression' in lieder form the theoretical and methodological framework for this study.

To interrogate the implications of intimate expression, Ronyak draws on an impressive array of letters, diaries, newspapers, annotated autograph scores, and concert programmes (among other materials), many of which are newly found or will be new to musicologists. These materials largely document the performance practice of lieder from north Germany in the years around 1800. There are several good reasons for this historical and geographical focus. For one, it showcases a surprisingly underexplored lied repertory by composers such as Carl Friedrich Zelter and his north German colleagues. Ronyak is also able to sidestep the large body of studies on Schubert's lieder that have come to epitomize the textcentric hermeneutics of recent decades. Most significantly, however, it locates her study at a time when writers and philosophers were actively preoccupied with delineating the [End Page 557] autonomy of the inner self in relation to their fellow artists and writers and the social-intellectual space of the salon. Throughout this book, Ronyak shows how 'intimate expression' in lieder performances can challenge the idealized conceptions of the self in these contemporary discourses.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the two principal intellectual circles that inform the historical understanding of subjectivity in this study: the Weimar Classicists, namely Schiller and Goethe, and the early Romantics, represented here by Friedrich Schlegel and Friedrich Schleiermacher. Goethe's lyric poetry in particular typifies his circle's interest in valorizing, modelling, and protecting one's subjective autonomy from the outside world and from others. Schleiermacher's treatise on sociable conduct (Versuch einer Theorie des geselligen Betragens, 1799), on the other hand, argues that the cultivation of the inner self is formed through free expression within a society (Gesellschaft), thereby expanding the Goethean self-enclosure to the walls of the salon. These two broad perspectives on the boundaries of the self inform the following two chapters, which explore intimate expression in the semi-private realm of the salon. In chapter 2 (discussed in more detail below), Ronyak examines the detailed performance indications in Zelter's settings of Goethe to demonstrate how Zelter sought to maintain the Goethean ideals of subjective autonomy, while also showing the implausibility of these strict enclosures in performance. Chapter 3 explores the performance of the miller's tale Liederspiel in Elisabeth von Sta«gemann's Berlin salon alongside Schleiermacher's model of the salon as a site of free sociability. Focusing on two of its members—Wilhelm Müller and Luise Hensel—Ronyak demonstrates how the intimate expression of their lied performances adapt and ultimately challenge Schleiermacher's idealized enclosures.

The remaining three chapters turn to the performance of the lied in public concerts and the generic mediation involved in maintaining its characteristic interiority while appealing to public tastes. Ronyak shows that this was not a simple case of increased programming; intimate lyric poems and lieder, displaced from private and semi-private spaces, were considered too simple, and their subjects too exposed, for public performance. Chapter 4 outlines the 'protective strategies' that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1477-4631
Print ISSN
0027-4224
Pages
pp. 557-560
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-15
Open Access
No
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