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  • Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century ed. by Anja Bunzel and Natasha Loges
Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century. Edited by Anja Bunzel and Natasha Loges. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2019. [xviii, 284 p. ISBN 978-1-78327-390-4. £65]

While there is, inevitably, much written about 'great' composers and their life in the salons of Europe, there has been much less to read about salon culture in general. This book is therefore hugely valuable, being wide-ranging, authoritative, and containing much that is new. The inclusion of two case studies from the U.S. is both timely and important. This informative collection of writing is the result of an international bilingual conference 'The European Salon: Nineteenth-Century Salonmusik' held at Maynooth University in October 2015. The chapters are by different authors and, to quote the editors, Anja Bunzel and Natasha Loges, the collection 'explores the idea of music in the salon . . . both as a sociological cultural phenomenon, and as a source of innovation and change . . . [that] uses the idea of the salon as a springboard to examine issues such as gender, religion, biography and performance; to explore the ways in which the salon was represented in different media; and to showcase the heterogeneity of the salon though a collection of case studies'. This catholicity of approach makes the book all the more appealing. The book has three sections, 'Concepts and Contexts', 'Representations of the Salon', and 'Case Studies'. Over sixteen chapters, many strands of research emerge and within these a rich tapestry develops; in particular the role of women is highlighted, as composers, performers, and enablers.

Bunzel's opening chapter, 'Johanna Kinkel's Social Life in Berlin (1836–39): Reflections on Historiographical Sources', begins by giving an outline of the pitfalls of studying salon culture—not least the problem of evidence from cultural biographies and autobiographies, which inevitably contain specific viewpoints and agendas. In short, much is often missing and what there is can be misleading. Nevertheless, Kinkel emerges as a far more interesting figure than the previous studies of her composition, political engagement, and personal life have allowed. The salon life of Berlin was evidently crucial to her development as a musician, and while she was only 'on the fringe of professional musical success' herself, she experienced and recorded much that is valuable to historical researchers; this study of her life in Berlin between 1836 and 1839 reveals this. Succeeding chapters in this section introduce a variety of diverse issues. The aesthetic implications of the musical sketches of Bettina von Arnim are explored by Jennifer Ronyak, who demonstrates how Arnim's very amateur compositional activity can be used, just as usefully as any established masterwork, to give new perspectives on the development of the romantic zeitgeist. A chapter by Katharina Uhde and R. Larry Todd on the intimacy of Bettina von Arnim's salon examines the way in which Joseph Joachim's creative output was focused, nurtured, and stimulated by his experiences there. Here, the cultural dialogue which took place between Joachim and the von Armin salon is revealed through detailed analytical study of the chamber music which he wrote for this [End Page 171] salon from 1854 to 1856. In Chapter 4, Natasha Loges uses the Mädchenlieder of Paul Hayser and Johannes Brahms to illustrate the importance of words and music to the salon. In particular, 'What expressive possibilities might have been created by this synergy between the printed and the sung word?' In this work, Loges sees an 'expanded notion of the salon' which extends the personal world of salon by the means of printing. Through publishing, the intimate personal communication of the salon was to be transformed into a more impersonal and public medium.

The central section of the book looks at representations of the salon in other media. Firstly, Kirsten Santos Rutschman considers the Uppsala salon of Malla Silverstolpe in which, over some thirty years (until 1846), she was to shape contemporary musical production in Sweden and where the interaction between Swedish folk music and art music became important. Then, in the following chapter, Maren Bagge and Clemens Kreutzfeldt use the lens of English caricature in the eighteenth century to examine the salon culture of England, both in London and on the estates of the landed gentry. Mary Anne Garnett uses the satirical writing of France during the July Monarchy to examine the phenomenon of the salon singer in France. The mass production of printed publications brought about 'the satiric decade' of 1830 to 1840 and Garnett finds that these caricatures reveal truths about the salon society of the time. In Chapter 8, Beatrix Darmstädter makes a detailed study of the instruments that were employed within the salons of Biedermeier Vienna—in particular, the many elaborate and highly decorative pianos which were to be found in all sophisticated households. A chapter by Péter Bozó looks at a representation of the salon on stage in Offenbach's Monsieur Choufleuri restera chez lui le . . . , a witty vignette of 'a bourgeois and wealthy gentleman who wants to be perceived as a patron of the arts', first performed in 1861 and set in the Paris of 1833. This operetta includes a parody of the Italian and French operas that entered the drawing rooms of the social elite in small-scale forms. There is much more, however; Bozó notes parody of the gothic supernatural so fashionable at the time and references the craze for the Italian music of Rossini and Bellini (among others). Harry White, by contrast, uses much more contemporary evidence to explore the dominance of the piano in salon culture. Mike Leigh's film Topsy Turvy is used to demonstrate a modern reading of the complex social mores of the salon, apparent in the film and made explicit by Leigh's use of the piano. The piano duet, we are reminded, provided opportunities for an intimacy not easily found outside the salon, and in literature, from Jane Austen onwards, it was a 'nexus of social communication and meaning'. In addition, the four-hand piano arrangements of the German symphony endured the swift 'transmission of that genre throughout Europe and North America at a time when orchestral performances were an exceptional experience for most people'. Thus, in literature and film the ubiquitous salon instrument 'acquires a significance beyond the emotional and cultural richness of Western music as a metalanguage which preoccupies literary and cinematic discourse alike'.

The final section of the book centres upon a series of case studies of specific salons: Caroline Pilcher's salon in Vienna, the Staegemann-Olfers salon in Berlin, Josephine Lang's participation in the salons of Southern Germany (in Munich, Stuttgart, and Tübingen), salon culture in 1870s Florence, and the American salons of Clara Kathleen Rogers in Boston (from 1878 through to the 1890s), and the émigré pianist-composer Ernst von Dohnányi in Tallahassee, during the 1950s. Many fascinating scholarly approaches emerge from these studies and all but the final chapter describe women for whom the salon 'offered an opportunity to develop an independent intellectual life'. Susan Youens's chapter describes practises, audiences, and repertoire within the Pilcher salon and how the Romantic idealisation and symbolism of nature was employed in literature and music. Petra Wilhelmy-Dollinger follows the evolution of one specific Berlin salon over a hundred years, noting that while instinctively conservative, the new musical directions of Liszt and Wagner were discussed and had a place. In contrast to these rather domestic and homespun settings, Harald Krebbs explores the more professional social gatherings of Southern Germany encountered by Josephine Lang. These salons included [End Page 172] the great names of the German Romantic era, including Brahms, Wagner, Liszt, and Joachim. Here we find an environment centred on high-level musicianship and where men and women engaged on a more equal footing than was possible in the concert hall. Michael Uhde's chapter moves our attention to Florence and Italy and could be titled 'the power of the salon'. This essay shows how Jessie Hillebrand used her salon to promote the careers of her pupils and protégées and also to promote her own career as a pioneering conductor. The final chapters by Katie A. Callam and Veronika Kusz demonstrate the way in which the European model was exported to America. As European salon-culture was, perhaps, fading, a combination of nostalgia, patriotism, and the need to build cultural credentials, led émigrés to establish salons of their own, both of which, in turn, became reflections of the cultural surroundings in which they found themselves.

Dollinger, towards the conclusion of her chapter describing the Staegemann-Olfers salon, says that Berlin was, for almost a century, 'a living tradition of Romanticism, where time and space contracted in the mirror of remembrance, and where amateurs and professionals discussed a large spectrum of interdisciplinary interests'. A neat encapsulation of what this book seeks to examine. What emerges is that the salon was perhaps the most important element in the development of the Romantic aesthetic. It provided a safe and intimate environment where professionals and amateurs could mix, where social mobility was possible through the influential connections made, and where men and women could interact on an equal footing. The most striking thing is that salon culture was truly cosmopolitan, with musicians and composers moving freely between countries (including America), and helped the dissemination of new music and ideas both quickly and efficiently. A slight disappointment is that little attention is paid to the inherent commercialism of much salon culture (although hinted at in Krebs's chapter): professional musicians always travelled with letters of introduction and it was their most important entrée into the society and culture of a new city. Ambitious hosts snapped them up and this added to their celebrity, particularly after the decline of court patronage. Publishers, in particular, were active in salons in order to promote their house publications (one thinks of Moritz Schlesinger's quartet parties in Beethoven's Vienna), and musical parties where new music was tried out in front of a select audience were held in the houses of wealthy patrons, as well as at inns, hotels, and at the premises and houses of the publishers themselves—but perhaps this will form a chapter in a future book. Certainly, this collection contains much enlightening material, and is a thought-provoking volume for anyone researching the music of the long nineteenth century in general. As we have come to expect from Boydell, the book is attractively produced and set, with plenty of well-produced illustrations and musical examples. I heartily recommend it to all those involved in this area of study and to serious music libraries.

John Carnelley
Dulwich

Additional Information

ISSN
2471-156X
Print ISSN
0015-6191
Pages
171-173
Launched on MUSE
2020-06-26
Open Access
No
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