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Music and Literature in German Romanticism

Music and Literature in German Romanticism

Siobhán Donovan
Robin Elliott
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Music and Literature in German Romanticism
    Book Description:

    The interrelationship between music and literature reached its zenith during the Romantic era, and nowhere was this relationship more pronounced than in Germany. Many representatives of literary and philosophical German Romanticism held music to be the highest and most expressive, quintessentially Romantic art form, able to convey what cannot be expressed in words: the ineffable and metaphysical. The influence was reciprocal, with literature providing a rich source of inspiration for German composers of both instrumental and vocal music, giving rise to a wealth of new forms and styles. The essays in this volume are selected from papers presented at an international, interdisciplinary conference held at University College Dublin in December 2000, and include contributions from Germanists, musicologists, comparatists, and performance artists. This interdisciplinarity makes for informed and complementary approaches and arguments. The essays cover not only the "Romantic" nineteenth century (commencing with the early Romanticism of the Jena circle), but also look ahead to the legacy, reception, and continuation of German Romanticism in the modern and postmodern ages. Alongside new readings of familiar and established writers and composers such as Goethe, Hoffmann, Wagner, and Schubert, a case is made for other figures such as Wackenroder, Novalis, Schlegel, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, and Berlioz, as well as less-known figures such as Ritter, Schneider, and Termen, and for a reconsideration of questions of categorization. The essays will appeal to readers with a wide variety of academic, musical, and literary interests. Siobhán Donovan is a Lecturer in the Department of German at University College Dublin. Robin Elliott is Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music at the University of Toronto.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-645-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Siobhán Donovan and Robin Elliott
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Harry White

    There are no translations.” This lapidary formula, invented by George Steiner in 1958 (in the afterword to a translation of Thomas Mann’s Felix Krull by Denver Lindley), has long been a source of fertile amusement to one of the editors of Music and Literature in German Romanticism. I should add straight away that it was the writer of this foreword who introduced him to it, and I should probably explain that quite apart from my own unabashed admiration for Steiner’s work in general, the phrase itself has often served as a lofty (if ironic) excuse for my own incompetence in...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    Man muß schriftstellen, wie componiren” proclaimed Novalis, the pioneering German Romantic. His aphorism formulated, at the dawn of the nineteenth century, the Romantic belief in the transformation of the arts — here: the two auditory arts of music and literature — and the interaction between them.¹ Its ultimate implication — the superiority of music over verbal language — would be rather more forcibly expressed by his contemporary Friedrich Schlegel, who, comparing music with sculpture, hailed music as the highest art form and “eigentlich die Kunst dieses Jahrhunderts.”²

    Many representatives of literary and philosophical German Romanticism held music to be the most expressive of the...

  6. German Romantic Music Aesthetics

    • Iniquitous Innocence: The Ambiguity of Music in the Phantasien über die Kunst (1799)
      (pp. 1-12)
      Richard Littlejohns

      In the heterogeneous collection of essays, reflections, anecdotes, and fictional letters on the visual arts, architecture, and music published in 1799 under the title Phantasien über die Kunst, für Freunde der Kunst (Fantasies on the Arts, for Lovers of the Arts) there is one hymnic section in praise of music: “Die Wunder der Tonkunst” (The Wonders of Music). It opens with two similes followed by two metaphors — a “herrliche Fülle der Bilder,”¹ as they are termed in the euphoric style of the whole section — in which the speaker attempts to convey the mysterious and poignant appeal of music. First he...

    • The Cosmic-Symphonic: Novalis, Music, and Universal Discourse
      (pp. 13-26)
      James Hodkinson

      It was amongst the dying wishes of Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) in March 1801 to hear his brother play a piece by Mozart on the harpsichord.¹ Mention of any great knowledge or appreciation of music, of specific composers and musical works, and evidence of any practical musical skill are, nevertheless, absent from the corpus of his writing. It is of no slight significance, however, that the conference from which this volume grew should have heralded itself with reference to Novalis’s formulation “Unsere Sprache [. . .] muß wieder Gesang werden” (SN3:284:245), which is typical of the many abstract references to...

    • “Das Hören ist ein Sehen von und durch innen”: Johann Wilhelm Ritter and the Aesthetics of Music
      (pp. 27-42)
      Thomas Strässle

      Like virtually no other figure, Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776–1810) epitomizes the relationship between Romanticism and the sciences. He is considered the prototype of the Romantic natural scientist who was in revolt against the omnipotent Newtonian system of physics.¹ In turn, Romantic natural sciences, which were substantially indebted to Schelling’s Naturphilosophie² (though not in an uncritical way³) and thus adopted the organism as the principle metaphor for nature, were subjected to constant and harsh criticism throughout the nineteenth century by the traditional, mechanical natural sciences.⁴

      When scientists concern themselves with Ritter, the mistrust that tends to characterize their attitudes towards...

    • Music and Non-Verbal Reason in E. T. A. Hoffmann
      (pp. 43-56)
      Jeanne Riou

      In the following, attention will be focused on issues of Romantic musical aesthetics in E. T. A. Hoffmann. Music is a libidinally driven and dangerous experience in Hoffmann, holding the promise of transcendence in the Romantic sense, which is partially a protest against the rationalizations of modern life. Hoffmann’s outsider-protagonists, through their pursuit of artistic transcendence, often sacrifice their ability to function as rational beings. While the disruption of rational identity is a feature of almost all Romantic writing, it is intensified in Hoffmann and takes on a psychological character that is absent in, for instance, Novalis. The radicalized form...

  7. Responses to Goethe

    • Perceptions of Goethe and Schubert
      (pp. 59-74)
      Lorraine Byrne

      Over the years Goethe’s musicality has been called into question. Ernest Walker calls him “the greatest of the few exceptions” of “unmusical poets”;¹ Moritz Bauer describes Goethe as a “man of very limited musical understanding”;² Elisabeth Schumann writes about his “indifference to music”;³ Calvin Brown speaks about his “rather severe musical limitations”;⁴ and Lorraine Gorrell portrays a “musically opinionated, but conservative poet.”⁵ Even where Goethe’s musicality has been recognized, it is always qualified. McClain argues that Goethe “was not a person who instinctively understood music as a language or who used it as a means of expression”;⁶ claus Canisius attributes...

    • Goethe’s Egmont, Beethoven’s Egmont
      (pp. 75-86)
      David Hill

      Beethoven’s incidental music to Egmont, op. 84, is a paradigmatic illustration of a number of possible relationships between music and ideas. Even when the overture is played by itself, as it was in Beethoven’s day too, the title invites us to hear it not as an abstract symphonic movement, but as relating somehow to Goethe’s play. Eduard Hanslick’s claim that the link between the overture and the play is loose and arbitrary (“lose und willkürlich”)¹ is only true in the sense that we would be unable to deduce the plot of the play from the music alone. The F-major coda...

    • A Tale of Two Fausts: An Examination of Reciprocal Influence in the Responses of Liszt and Wagner to Goethe’s Faust
      (pp. 87-104)
      David Larkin

      One of the major differences between the music of the classical period (late eighteenth century) and that of the nineteenth century was the tendency of Romantic composers to resort explicitly to external, non-musical sources to form the basis for the creation of new instrumental compositions. Nature proved valuable in this regard; examples include such works as Liszt’s piano piece Au lac de Wallenstadt (Années de Pèlerinage I) (At the Wallenstadt Lake, Years of Pilgrimage I, 1858), or Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (1832), which consciously try to reproduce in sonic terms a visual phenomenon — or, at least, an emotional recollection of the...

    • Musical Gypsies and Anti-Classical Aesthetics: The Romantic Reception of Goethe’s Mignon Character in Brentano’s Die mehreren Wehmüller und ungarische Nationalgesichter
      (pp. 105-120)
      Stefanie Bach

      The image of the gypsy¹ was a rich source of association that attracted many Romantic writers to lend it their own interpretation. This undeniable fascination with the traditional Gypsy character and lifestyle, which evoked notions of freedom from social norms, disregard for boundaries (both geographical and social), and an apparent closeness to nature, initiated a plethora of literary manifestations of Gypsy characters, particularly in German Romantic literature. In the image of the Gypsy, Romantic artists found a motif that could express a variety of preoccupations. However, the use of musical Gypsies in Brentano’s novella Die mehreren Wehmüller und ungarische Nationalgesichter²...

  8. Sounds of Hoffmann

    • Stages of Imagination in Music and Literature: E. T. A. Hoffmann and Hector Berlioz
      (pp. 123-142)
      Andrea Hübener

      With these words the penniless actor Giglio in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s capriccio Prinzessin Brambilla (1821) evokes the fantastic topography of the two theatrical, fairy-tale kingdoms where Giglio and his lady Giacinta will respectively reign as prince and princess. As Giacinta’s appearance in her princess’s attire at the beginning of this fairy-tale novella has already implied, and as the novella’s end eventually confirms, both kingdoms flout all petty reason. They do not simply border one another, but actually converge within a shared theatrical frame. Thus the stage comes to represent the world of the imagination, where the symbiotic realms of...

    • The Voice from the Hereafter: E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Ideal of Sound and Its Realization in Early Twentieth-Century Electronic Music
      (pp. 143-162)
      Werner Keil

      Thus wrote Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling in his philosophical tract Von der Weltseele (Of the World Soul, 1798).¹ This “idea of nature as a whole” is for Schelling the “absolute,” with the work of art as an authentic expression of the absolute. It resolves all conflict between the mechanical and the organic, and by authentically portraying the absolute it takes on a multiplicity of meanings. Schelling’s juxtaposition of the mechanical and the organic has its origins in Immanuel Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft (Critique of Judgment, 1790) where, in paragraphs 64–65, Kant uses the image of a wheel or cog as...

  9. Lieder

    • “My song the midnight raven has outwing’d”: Schubert’s “Der Wanderer,” D. 649
      (pp. 165-182)
      James Parsons

      As anyone who has pondered the German Lied can attest, the attempt to uncover what a composer has made of a poet’s text is generally thought to be the first step toward understanding a song’s mediation of words. Indeed, the first sentence of Richard Kramer’s recent Distant Cycles: Schubert and the Conceiving of Song asks: “What does Schubert want from poetry?”¹ Susan Youens makes the point even more emphatically: “Lieder begin with words,” she insists. “They are born when a composer encounters poetry.”² Pursuing the same question from a perspective now including the performer, listener, or critic, Kristina Muxfeldt warns...

    • The Notion of Personae in Brahms’s “Bitteres zu sagen denkst du,” op. 32, no. 7: A Literary Key to Musical Performance?
      (pp. 183-200)
      Natasha Loges

      Brahms’s songs present a provocative front to the scholar-performer. While the academic community does not dispute Brahms’s significance as a song-writer, this esteem is not reflected by the performance community, which restricts itself to the same handful of songs for which Brahms became famous during his lifetime.¹ How can this contradiction be resolved? Certainly, Brahms himself gives no clues. Although the legacy of Brahms’s teasingly cryptic comments about song composition has been thoroughly documented,² there is no single successful and specific study of song interpretation. The occasional ungrateful vocal line and virtuosic accompaniment could perhaps be responsible for pushing the...

  10. Romantic Overtones in Contemporary German Literature

    • Robert Schneider’s Schlafes Bruder A Neo-Romantic Musikernovelle?
      (pp. 203-216)
      Jürgen Barkhoff

      Ich weiß nicht, irgend jemand hat geschrieben, das sei Biedermeier.[...] Gut, kann man schreiben. Ich würde sagen, Romantik und nicht Biedermeier. Es ist in viel höherem Maße ein romantisches Buch.” The book in question, which none other than Marcel Reich-Ranicki labels a Romantic book in his “Literarisches Quartett,” was one of the rare literary successes of the 1990s in German-language literature, and the fact that itwas given the full treatment on television is certainly indicative of the dimensions of this success.¹ Schlafes Bruder (Brother of Sleep, 1992), the first novel of the Austrian writer and musician from the region of...

  11. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 217-220)
  12. Notes on the Editors
    (pp. 221-222)
  13. Index
    (pp. 223-234)