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Music in 1853

Music in 1853: The Biography of a Year

Hugh Macdonald
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Music in 1853
    Book Description:

    Why 1853? For many leading composers this year brought far-reaching changes to their lives: Brahms emerged from obscurity to celebrity, Schumann ceased to be an active composer, and both Berlioz and Wagner became active again after long silences. By limiting the perspective to a single year yet extending it to a group of musicians, their constant interconnections become the central motif: Brahms meets Berlioz and Liszt as well as Schumann; Liszt is a constant link in every chain; Joachim is close to all of them; Wagner is on everyone's mind. No one composer is at the centre of the story, but a network of musicians spreads across the map of Europe from London and Paris to Leipzig and Zurich. 'Music in 1853' shows how musicians were now more closely connected than ever before, through the constant exchange of letters and the rapidly expanding railway network. The book links geography and day-to-day events to show how international the European musical scene had become. A larger picture emerges of a shift in musical scenery, from the world of the innocent Romanticism of Berlioz and Schumann to the more potent musical politics of Wagner and of his antidote (as many saw him) Brahms. HUGH MACDONALD is Avis H. Blewett Professor Emeritus of Music at Washington University, St Louis. He has authored books on Skryabin and Berlioz and has previously published 'Beethoven's Century: Essays on Composers and Themes' with Boydell/URP.

    eISBN: 978-1-84383-718-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xv)
    st louis
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER I Brahms Leaves Home APRIL – MAY
    (pp. 1-14)

    On Tuesday 19 April 1853 Johannes Brahms left his parents’ house in the Lilienstrasse, in the old part of the city of Hamburg, and set off on the road. He was not yet twenty years old and his fond parents bid him farewell with anxiety. He was the second of three children, a little less than average height, with fair, straight hair and a fresh, almost babyish, complexion. Brahms, who looked so old when he was old, looked very young when he was young. His serious demeanour and taciturn manner convinced those who met him that his absorption in music...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Berlioz and Spohr in London MAY – JULY
    (pp. 15-32)

    On Saturday 14 May, while Schumann and Joachim were rehearsing in Düsseldorf and while Reményi and Brahms were travelling somewhere in north Germany, Hector Berlioz left Paris for London, sailing under overcast skies on the Princess Helena from Boulogne to Folkestone. It was his fourth visit to England and his third in three years. He liked London more and more, and his previous visit, in 1852, had been an enormous success. He was greatly impressed by the vastness and imperial splendour of London, and the profusion of foreign musicians working in London ensured that he would be working among friends....

  8. CHAPTER 3 Brahms and Liszt in Weimar JUNE
    (pp. 33-41)

    Reményi and Brahms left Hanover on Friday 10 June and arrived in Weimar at a moment when the city was preparing to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Grand Duke’s reign. Carl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, had succeeded his father, the remarkable Carl August, patron of Goethe and Schiller, in 1828. He was now seventy years old, but he had personally contributed little to Weimar’s cultural life in comparison with the achievements of his father and with the lively support for music and theatre displayed by his consort Maria Pavlovna, sister of Tsar Nicolas I of Russia, and by...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Wagner and Liszt in Zurich MAY – JULY
    (pp. 42-57)

    On Sunday 22 May 1853 in Zurich, Richard Wagner celebrated his fortieth birthday. Birthdays always meant a lot to him, and he marked this important day by giving a series of concerts devoted to his own music, the first time he had ever done such a thing. Apart from his chronic shortage of money, life was treating him well, considering that he was banned from living and working in Germany as a result of his ill-advised involvement in the failed revolutionary rising in Dresden in 1849. He had been lucky to escape. Some of his fellow revolutionaries were caught and...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Berlioz in Baden–Baden and Frankfurt JULY – AUGUST
    (pp. 58-70)

    On Saturday 9 July, the day before Liszt’s departure from Zurich, Berlioz and Marie returned from London to their Paris apartment on the Rue de Boursault with wounds to lick. The humiliation of Benvenuto Cellini’s reception in Paris in 1838 was now matched by another, that of Covent Garden. Berlioz thought wistfully of Liszt and his successful resurrection of the opera in Weimar the year before and wrote him a long letter with a full account of the London débâcle. Liszt was intending to revive it, and there was talk of productions in Marseille and St Petersburg. Berlioz certainly never...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Joachim and Brahms in Göttingen and Bonn JULY – SEPTEMBER
    (pp. 71-83)

    Where was Brahms meanwhile? We left him on Sunday 3 July making his departure from Weimar in order to join Joachim in Göttingen, happy to leave Liszt’s rather clinging coterie at the Altenburg. Liszt had already left for his trip via Karlsruhe to visit Wagner in Zurich. Joachim had been in Göttingen for a month and had already settled into his lodgings in the Krüger Garden House at 21 Nikolausberger Weg, now a busy road leading into the town from the north-east. His landlord was a bookseller named Vogel, but the house no longer exists. Göttingen was a quiet town...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Liszt in Frankfurt, Weimar and Carlsbad JULY – SEPTEMBER
    (pp. 84-94)

    Before parting company with Wagner on 10 July Liszt received a telegram from Weimar reporting the death of his monarch, the Grand Duke Carl Friedrich. While his respect for the new Grand Duke, his son Carl Alexander, was profound, it says much for the father’s lack of cultural endowment that Liszt showed no desire to hasten back for the funeral. His services at such an event were neither required nor appreciated. After returning to Basel in the bumpy diligence with his servant Hermann, and exhausted from all the late nights with Wagner, he went to Badenweiler, one of the smallest...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Wagner in St Moritz and La Spezia JULY – SEPTEMBER
    (pp. 95-105)

    Wagner saw Liszt of from the Zurich coach-stop on Sunday 10 July. It had been, as he described it, a ‘wild week’, but now, with Liszt gone, everything was bleak and desolate. He felt he had got to know Liszt better than ever before and was nudged several steps nearer to his giant musical undertaking by the inspiration of Liszt’s playing and the modernity of his style. He was more than ever conscious of the wretchedness of his exile and the dreariness (as he saw it) of life in Zurich. His plans were now to take a four-week cure in...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Liszt in Karlsruhe SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER
    (pp. 106-119)

    For all alert German musicians the Karlsruhe Festival of October 1853 was one of the biggest events of the year. In July the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik already predicted that this would be an epoch-making event, and the build-up that followed was a model of efective public relations.

    Unlike most European cities, which have grown up on a river around a core of winding mediaeval streets with a central church and market, Karlsruhe was created in an empty space in 1715, not unlike the foundation of the cities of St Petersburg and Washington, DC. Indeed, the layout of the latter...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Schumann and Brahms in Düsseldorf SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER
    (pp. 120-132)

    Schumann’s journal entry for Friday 30 September 1853 includes the following: ‘Hr. Brahms a. Hamburg’, ‘Mr Brahms from Hamburg’. Schumann was actually not there to meet him that day, but the following day’s entry is: ‘Brahms zum Besuch (ein Genius)’, ‘a visit from Brahms, a genius’. It took only one day’s acquaintance for Schumann to reach this conclusion and to appply to his visitor a term which in all his years as a music critic he had used only very rarely. If Brahms had suffered any anxiety about his reception in the Schumann household, it was immediately laid to rest....

  16. CHAPTER 11 Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz in Paris OCTOBER
    (pp. 133-146)

    On the day after the Karlsruhe Festival, Thursday 6 October, Liszt led a party of enthusiastic supporters on an expedition to Basel to visit Wagner. They took the train the 125 miles south into Switzerland and arrived at the Les Trois Rois Hotel in Basel by six o’clock, where Wagner was ddue to meet them. Still today impressively overlooking the Rhine, the hotel had once housed Napoleeon, so perhaps it was up to Wagner’s standards of luxury. He had an uncomfortable overnight journey from Zurich in the diligence and was there ahead of Liszt’s party. He was sitting in the...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Berlioz, Joachim and Brahms in Hanover OCTOBER – NOVEMBER
    (pp. 147-156)

    The idea of a Hamlet concert in Frankfurt which Gustav Schmidt had put forward in August came to nothing, so Berlioz had to cross that city of his autumn itinerary. Meanwhile he had invitations from Brunswick and Hanover, with a possible date in Bremen. Munich and Prague remained possibilities. His blood quickened whenever he left Paris behind and headed for German cities where the prospect of conducting well-disciplined orchestras in front of discerning audiences reminded him of what music-making ought to be. He had no orchestra in Paris and no certain support from critics and public. It was seven years...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Brahms, Berlioz and Liszt in Leipzig NOVEMBER – DECEMBER
    (pp. 157-171)

    Brahms left Hanover on 17 November and headed for Leipzig. It had always been one of the main goals of his many months of travel; at last he felt ready to present himself to a city full of professional musicians who had a few weeks to digest Schumann’s proclamation of his genius. Leipzig was in all but name the capital of German music. Since the death of Beethoven and Schubert – or more properly since the start of Metternich’s long era as guardian of imperial policy – Vienna had barely maintained its former glory in the domain of music and...

  19. CHAPTER 14 The Schumanns in Holland and Hanover NOVEMBER – FEBRUARY
    (pp. 172-183)

    The year 1853 came to an end. In his apartment at 13 Zeltweg, Zurich, Wagner was approaching the end of the first draft of Das Rheingold after two months’ intensive work. Berlioz was back in the Rue de Boursault, Paris, already composing L’Arrivée à Saïs (as it was eventually called), the sequel to La Fuite en Égypte. Brahms was at home in Hamburg with his family, all of them full of pride at his extraordinary leap to fame but at the same time knowing he would soon need to seek to consolidate his fortune elsewhere. In Hanover Joachim was starting...

  20. Epilogue
    (pp. 184-188)

    The remaining years of the 1850s saw a widening of the schism in German music whose early shoots we have seen beginning to push through the surface in 1853. As usual there were both aesthetic and personal perspectives. In the previous generation it had been possible, in fact normal, to combine a fresh Romantic sensibility with a respect for classical traditions, as in Mendelssohn, with his fragrant evocations of Scotland and Italy alongside his devotion to Bach, or in Schumann, whose earnest study of fugue went hand in hand with a poetic love of butterflies and moonlight. Berlioz displayed scant...

  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  22. Index
    (pp. 199-208)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)