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Good Music for a Free People

Good Music for a Free People: The Germania Musical Society in Nineteenth-Century America

Nancy Newman
Volume: 81
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    Good Music for a Free People
    Book Description:

    In ‘Good Music for a Free People’, author Nancy Newman examines the activities and reception of the Germania Musical Society, an orchestra whose members emigrated from Berlin during the Revolutions of 1848. These two dozen "Forty-Eighters" gave nearly a thousand concerts in North America during the ensuing six-year period, possibly reaching a million listeners. Drawing on a memoir by member Henry Albrecht, Newman provides insights into the musicians' desire to bring their music to the audiences of a democratic republic at this turbulent time. Eager to avoid the egotism and self-promotion of the European patronage system, they pledged to work for their mutual interests both musically and socially. "One for all, and all for one" became their motto. Originally published in German, Albrecht's memoir is presented here in for the first time in translation. Nancy Newman is assistant professor in the music department at the University at Albany, SUNY.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-768-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Prelude
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Like many musicological young Turks circa 1990, my initial introduction to the Germania Musical Society was through Lawrence Levine’s Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America.¹ Levine describes the ensemble as playing a pivotal role in the emergence of the symphony orchestra as a regular feature of American musical culture during the nineteenth century. Its members were a group of young Berlin musicians who immigrated to the United States in 1848 and presented “some nine hundred concerts before approximately one million people” over the next six years.

    The facts are not uninteresting, but what intrigued me was Levine’s characterization...

  7. Chapter One Musical Forty-Eighters
    (pp. 7-22)

    Three ensembles brought not just their love for music but actual performances to New York in autumn 1848: the Germania, the Saxonia Orchestra, and Joseph Gungl’s band. Another, the Steyermark Company, had arrived in 1846. Prior to the 1840s, it was virtually unheard of for a large instrumental ensemble to visit the United States. Individual musicians, such as the virtuosi Henri Herz and Ole Bull, had made transatlantic tours, and opera troupes such as the Garcias and Seguins braved the difficulty and expense of crossing the Atlantic. Orchestras, however, were rare. Their extraordinary presence in New York in 1848 was...

  8. Chapter Two Travels with the Germania, Part One: Lenschow’s Orchestra, 1848–50
    (pp. 23-70)

    It is difficult to know how many copies of Henry Albrecht’s Skizzen aus dem Leben der Musik-Gesellschaft Germania were printed in 1869, or how widely it circulated. A much shorter English-language account had appeared in 1854 in both the New York Musical World and Dwight’s Journal soon after the orchestra dissolved. Although Albrecht did not receive a byline for this corporate history, which is virtually identical in structure and language to Skizzen, he had begun such a sketch the previous year. The journal essay, according to Dwight, was prepared from “original German documents” by the New York Musical World’s editor,...

  9. Chapter Three Travels with the Germania, Part Two: Bergmann’s Bond, 1850–54
    (pp. 71-112)

    In early September 1850, the Newport Daily News reported that “the follies of the season closed with a death groan, in the shape of a fancy ball at the Ocean House.” The Germania opened the festivities at nine p.m. with a march. “Supper was served at 12, and dancing was kept up ’til morning.” Detailed accounts of the ladies’ and gentlemen’s attire appeared in the Boston papers, although “the ladies did not wear masks, as it was first agreed that they might.”¹ Carl Bergmann’s “Fancy Ball Polka Redowa, as performed at Newport” appeared the following year, a souvenir of this...

  10. Chapter Four The Music of Society: A Repertory Study
    (pp. 113-158)

    The cultural historian Lawrence Levine is one of the few writers to incorporate the Germania Musical Society’s activities into a larger argument about cultural development in the United States. In Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Levine describes a transformation from the “shared public culture” of the early nineteenth century to a “sacralized” and exclusionary attitude toward the arts by the century’s close. Beginning with a discussion of the multifarious presentations of Shakespeare that proliferated before 1850, Levine systematically examines the institutions of the theater, opera, symphony orchestra, and museum to show how this transformation permeated every aspect...

  11. Chapter Five Henry Albrecht’s Utopian Vision
    (pp. 159-196)

    The focus of this chapter is Henry Albrecht, violist, clarinetist, and author of Skizzen aus dem Leben der Musik-Gesellschaft Germania. My intention is to employ aspects of Albrecht’s biography to explicate crucial features of Skizzen. I concentrate primarily on the period just before the Germania’s organization in spring 1848 and on Albrecht’s activities after the orchestra members parted. Consideration of the social and political conditions of Vormärz Berlin makes his brief description of the orchestra’s formation more fully comprehensible. His writings after the orchestra’s dissolution, which connect him directly to Etienne Cabet and Icarianism, provide context for the publication of...

  12. Appendixes

    • Appendix A Chronology of Germania Performances
      (pp. 197-246)
    • Appendix B Biographical Dictionary of Members
      (pp. 247-254)
    • Appendix C Translations of Additional Writings by Henry Albrecht
      (pp. 255-258)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 259-294)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 295-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-316)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)