Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music: Singing Devils and Distant Sounds (Ernest Bloch Lectures)

Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music: Singing Devils and Distant Sounds (Ernest Bloch Lectures)

Language: English

Pages: 218


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Why are some of the most beloved and frequently performed works of the late-romantic period—Mahler, Delius, Debussy, Sibelius, Puccini—regarded by many critics as perhaps not quite of the first rank? Why has modernist discourse continued to brand these works as overly sentimental and emotionally self-indulgent? Peter Franklin takes a close and even-handed look at how and why late-romantic symphonies and operas steered a complex course between modernism and mass culture in the period leading up to the Second World War. The style’s continuing popularity and its domination of the film music idiom (via work by composers such as Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and their successors) bring late-romantic music to thousands of listeners who have never set foot in a concert hall. Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music sheds new light on these often unfairly disparaged works and explores the historical dimension of their continuing role in the contemporary sound world.

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practice, putting to one side the avant-garde’s derogatory stereotyping with which it became freighted. Of course, the stereotypes stick and late romanticism “is” in large measure what it became: a locus of dismissive tropes like “self-indulgent,” “overblown,” “decadent,” “maximal”—but all such tropes were generated from a perspective of which I am suggesting we might grow more wary. In the previous chapter I accordingly outlined an approach with methodological implications that led me to address

whole was directed so effectively to the urban and even suburban “serious” concertgoer of the day? In his attempt to marry the popular with the “scholarly,” Rachmaninov would soon fall victim to the Romantic discourse of high art as signifying and facilitating superiority over the consumers of music to whom Tolstoy seemed to want him to cater. Just as he would himself grow weary of his often-requested Prelude in C sharp minor, so the Second Piano Concerto has never been taken terribly seriously

unfolding revelation that bypasses most of the conventional mannerisms of naïve tone painting. The title is totally appropriate in its indication of a progression “from dawn to midday,” from darkness to light. We begin where the Nocturnes’ Sirènes may have wanted to position us: in submissive accommodation to the stillness of a calm sea at dawn. Responsive listeners may gradually imagine themselves consigned to a waveborn journey whose goal is not the merely physical ecstasy of Scriabin, but one

amphitheater-like Festspielhaus clearly came as a revelation: The lights go down and what follows is a silence unlike any other, a silence so profound that it qualifies as a musical sound. The orchestral chords that emerge shrink the auditorium to pocket size. . . . The acoustic is incomparable to any other musical space on earth. I enjoy the opera with a depth of concentration that is hard to sustain in less perfect surroundings. I feel privileged to be here. This intensity is a Bayreuth

Mists/Liszt conducting the premiere of his Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth. / 3 2. Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Symposion. / 77 3. Adolf Weissman, Der klingende Garten: Impressionen über das Erotische in der Musik. / 98 4. Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. / 116 5. Manuscript pages from Steiner’s score for Now, Voyager. / 118 6. Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. / 125 7. Schreker, Der ferne Klang. / 149 8. Photograph of rehearsal for Der Schmied von Gent. / 153 9. From Der Schmied

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