Category: Romanticism

  • Composing Irony

    The round tune “Frère Jacques” (Brother John) is known across cultures and languages in Europe. In German, it’s called “Bruder Martin” or “Bruder Jakob.” In the third movement of his Symphony no. 1 in D minor, Gustav Mahler presents us with a sardonic, funeral-march like version of the song in minor. He was inspired by […]

  • The Valkyries

    The stirring “Ride of the Valykyries” opens Act III of Wagner’s opera Die Walküre. Eight of the nine Valkyries, the warrior daughters of Wotan, ride their horses onto the battlefield to gather up the dead heroes and take them to Valhalla, the home of the gods. They await their sister Brünnhilde, who arrives with Sieglinde […]

  • Clara at 200

    A clever student-created animated bio, “The Wild Life of Clara Schumann.” Clara’s beautiful Lied “Beim Abschied.” The poem, by Friederike Serre, translated by Richard Stokes. On departing A purple glow shines from afar,Golden now the bright day sinks,One by one the silver starsAwaken in the skies.And the Queen of the DayBows her head and goes […]

  • Romantic Frenemies

    The conflict between Brahms and his posse, and Wagner and his, resulted in a “manifesto” written by Brahms and published in the Berliner Musik-Zeitung Echo in 1860: The undersigned have long followed with regret the proceedings of a certain party whose organ is Brendel’s Zeitschrift für Musik. The said Zeitschrift unceasingly promulgates the theory that the most […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part I

    Read the complete libretto in English translation here. Orientalism: “La Japonaise (Mme. Monet in Kimono” (Claude Monet, 1875). Photo from Operation Babylift, Saigon, 1975: a U.S. Naval officer about to take a Vietnamese orphan, one of thousands, onboard a plane to be adopted in America. For more on Operation Babylift, go here: A French […]

  • Ossian in Italy

    How did the poetry of Ossian (really, James MacPherson) influence Italian opera in the nineteenth century? Why was Ossian — later acknowledged to be a fraud — so important to the Romantic generation in Italy? Could it be because these supposedly ancient poems spoke to the longing for a unified culture and community, one based […]

  • Classically Black, part I

    A playlist of some of the earliest known music by African-American composers writing in the traditions of European classical music. Newport Gardner, 1746-1826. Francis Johnson (1792-1844). “The Wildflower Wreath” by Aaron J.R. Connor (d. 1850), sung by the great African-American tenor George Shirley: More Blind Tom Wiggins:

  • Schubertiades in a Police State

    Schubert’s room, as drawn by his friend Moritz von Schwind, 1821. Franz Schubert at age 16. Franz von Schober. The Austrian poet Franz von Schober (1796-1882) was evidently the driving force behind the Schubertiades, the semi-private salon gatherings at which Franz Schubert premiered many of his Lieder. Schober was in fact such a close friend of […]

  • Little Wild Rose in the Heather

    (The manuscript of “Heidenröslein.” Schubert’s marking is “lieblich,” i.e. charming or lovely.) Read through the score here: IMSLP09270-SchubertD257_Heidenroslein The song starts almost without starting: the voice and piano begin together, without any introduction. Although the song is a setting of a poem by the great German poet, playwright, novelist, and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, […]

  • Death and the Maiden

    The theme of Death and the Maiden comes from the Middle Ages, where the visual motif of the danse macabre or Totentanz (the dance of death) was a popular decoration in painting and architecture. The danse macabre usually shows the allegorical figure of Death leading an unsuspecting group of the living in a round dance which ends in the grave […]