Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1

Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1: The Romantic and Victorian Eras

SCOTT MESSING
Volume: 40
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 343
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt82081
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  • Book Info
    Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    In Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1: The Romantic and Victorian Eras, Scott Messing examines the historical reception of Franz Schubert as conveyed through the gendered imagery and language of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European culture. The concept of Schubert as a feminine type vaulted into prominence in 1838 when Robert Schumann described the composer's Mädchencharakter ("girlish" character), by contrast to the purportedly more masculine, more heroic Beethoven. What attracted Schumann to Schubert's music and marked it as feminine is evident in some of Schumann's own works that echo those of Schubert's in intriguing ways. Schubert's supposedly feminine quality also acted upon the popular consciousness through the writers and artists – in German-speaking Europe but also in France and England – whose fictional characters perform and hear Schubert's music. The figures discussed include Musset, Sand, Nerval, Maupassant, George Eliot, Henry James, Beardsley, Whistler, Fontane, and Heinrich and Thomas Mann. Over time, Schubert's stature became inextricably entwined with concepts of the distinct social roles of men and women, especially in domestic settings. For a composer whose reputation was founded principally upon musical genres that both the public and professionals construed as most suitable for private performance, the lure to locate Schubert within domestic spaces and to attach to him the attributes of its female occupants must have been irresistible. The story told is not without its complications, as this book reveals in an analysis of the response to Schubert in England, where the composer's eminence was questioned by critics whose arguments sometimes hinged on the more problematic aspects of gender in Victorian culture. Scott Messing is Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Alma College, and author of Neoclassicism in Music (University of Rochester Press, 1996).

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-683-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The subject for this book arose from modest beginnings. In 1994, I was searching for a suitable topic in connection with applying to attend a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Columbia University on German modernism led by Walter Frisch. Three years earlier, I had published an article on the circumstances surrounding Vienna’s commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, an event that became embroiled in the controversy over the so-called music of the future.¹ With Schubert’s centennial falling in 1897—an auspicious year of musical, cultural, and political change in Vienna during which Brahms died, Mahler...

  6. Chapter One Robert Schumann’s Schubert: Inventing a Mädchencharakter
    (pp. 8-55)

    When Franz Schubert died on November 19, 1828, he left a legacy that included about one hundred published works circulating principally in Austria and Germany, a respectable collection of panegyrics by Viennese obituarists, and an uncertain number of admirers that nonetheless included one zealous teenager studying law in Leipzig who had written (but not sent) a letter to the older composer earlier that summer and who had recorded in his diary the single word “dismay” upon learning of Schubert’s passing. One year later, that youthful enthusiast, Robert Schumann, wrote to his piano teacher Friedrich Wieck asking him to send to...

  7. Chapter Two Disseminating a Mädchencharakter: Gendered Concepts of Schubert in German-Speaking Europe
    (pp. 56-102)

    Schumann’s invention of Schubert’s Mädchencharakter came at a time when gendered descriptions of music were aesthetic constructions common enough to find their way into the composer’s prose and to have an impact on his compositional allusions to his predecessor. To judge by later references to his article, Schumann often served as the authoritative touchstone for the early attempts to place Schubert in a historical context. Certainly the reappearance of Schumann’s Mädchencharakter essay in a collection of his writings in 1854 was an impetus to Schubert’s emergence as a composer worthy of serious consideration, even as it encouraged the mimicry of...

  8. Chapter Three Performing Schubert’s Music in Nineteenth-Century Literature
    (pp. 103-154)

    The chasteness of Schubert’s relationships with women was of a piece with fabrications of the composer that emphasized his shyness or indecision, traits that for decades had buttressed notions of his Mädchencharakter. Certainly the reception of this image was common in Austria, where local traditions and the familiarity of language made the composer’s works, especially his Lieder, easily accessible. Also, the symbolic treatment of his music in an imagined setting, whether written or visual, was comprehensible to an audience that remained largely circumscribed by a shared culture, at least through the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Indeed, an early...

  9. Chapter Four Performing Schubert’s Music in Nineteenth-Century Art
    (pp. 155-175)

    Although works of art that imagined the composer and his friends playing and listening to his music at a Schubertiade constituted a tradition that began in his own lifetime (and will serve as the context for Gustav Klimt’s painting Schubert at the Piano, to be discussed in the second volume of this study), the portrait of an individual performing one of his works without its creator’s presence, as depicted in the 1846 Viennese cartoon, was an exceptional occurrence before the mid-century. As Schubert’s reputation grew, a modest but telling group of visual images appeared that echoed features of his Mädchencharakter....

  10. Chapter Five A “Slipper-and-Dressing-Gown Style”: Schubert in Victorian England
    (pp. 176-209)

    Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, Schubert’s popularity enjoyed a near-continuous progress extending well beyond local Viennese admiration. As secure as his reputation was by 1900, however, his significance did not go completely uncontested. The debate over the composer among a group of English writers during the last two decades of the century indicates that even so beloved an icon as Schubert did not acquire his stature without controversy. This polemic also illustrates the perils that could arise from the desire to accept too intimate an association between biography and creativity.

    During the quarter century that followed his...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 210-214)

    This book has documented the nineteenth century’s reception of Schubert and his music from the standpoint of gender. It located a point of origin in Schumann’s coining of the term Mädchencharakter in 1838 and considered its ramifications in that composer’s criticism and music. The subsequent invocation of this term during the second half of the nineteenth century reflects its significance in the formulation of Schubert’s identity. Further, the frequency with which the composer’s music was construed as feminine indicates that this idea became embedded in Schubert’s reception, extending beyond history, biography, and criticism. In contemporary works of literature and art,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 215-284)
  13. List of Journals and Newspapers Cited
    (pp. 285-286)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 287-312)
  15. Index
    (pp. 313-330)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-335)