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Musicology and Performance

Musicology and Performance

Alfred Mann
George J. Buelow
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Musicology and Performance
    Book Description:

    Arriving in the United States at age twenty-seven, Hungarian-born Paul Henry Lang (1901-1991) went on to exert a powerful influence on musical life and scholarship in his adopted country for more than six decades. As professor of musicology at Columbia University, editor of theMusical Quarterly, a founder of the American Musicological Society, and chief music critic of theNew York HeraldTribune, Lang became one of Americas foremost musical scholars and commentators. This anthology of his previously uncollected writings includes essays written throughout his career on a full array of musical subjects, as well as unpublished chapters of the book on performance practice that he was writing at the time of his death.Lang was concerned above all with safeguarding the purity of musical knowledge as reflected in both scholarship and performance. Whether addressing his fellow musicologists or the general public, he expressed a broadly humanistic conception of musicology in his erudite and entertaining writings on such diverse subjects as Bach and Handel, the historical veracity of the filmAmadeus, Marxist theory and music, and the controversial issue ofauthenticity in performance.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14639-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Christoph Wolff

    It is a great pleasure, indeed a high honor for me, to provide some preliminary remarks to this collection of essays by Paul Henry Lang. As the one who occupied from 1970 to 1976—very much in respectful awe—Professor Lang’s office and chair upon his retirement from academic duties at Columbia University, I feel particularly close to the befitting and timely project undertaken by Alfred Mann and George J. Buelow. But it is not so much my recollection of the Dodge Hall office, consecrated by eternal cigar smoke, but rather my continuing personal exchange with this unforgettable mentor and...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Alfred Mann and George J. Buelow

    Paul Henry Lang (1901–1991) was the first scholar to be called to an American university in order to establish a formal curriculum in musicology. Throughout his distinguished career he regarded this fact with modesty, recalling the pioneer labors of Oscar Sonneck and the other founding fathers of American music scholarship. But no one before him had held the titular appointment, and not until it was under his guidance did musicology come of age in the United States.

    The young Hungarian who came to this country on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1928 had studied in Budapest with Kodály, in...

  5. On Musicology

    • Musicology and Musical Letters
      (pp. 3-10)

      The gradual expansion of the field of musical knowledge has proceeded at an accelerated pace during the twentieth century, and the time is already past when one-man histories of music of the traditional type could attempt to bring the reader into contact with the prime essentials of all phases of music history. It is not surprising, therefore, that those who nurture the hope of making such studies popular in the honorable sense of the term should have turned their attention to forms of summarization which are from the outset deliberately eclectic in design and limited in scope. Still, this enforced...

    • Musicology and Related Disciplines
      (pp. 11-23)

      Members of the university community naturally represent considerable variety in individuality, beliefs, and principles; these differences are fruitful when they are related to, when they have reference to, a mutual center. And although the disciplines taught under the heading of the liberal arts do separate us, we can see, even within the framework of the different themes, the kindred nature of our research and the shaping of this research into communicable wisdom.

      Culture is the sum total of our heritage in its historical development: religion, science, the arts, the social order, the forms of life. Literature is not simply the...

    • Music and History
      (pp. 24-39)

      It is entirely owing to our ways of learning and teaching music that there are relatively few who clearly perceive what music means within the history of civilization, and thus what it means to the nation and its culture. In a fog in which all contours of thought are lost, the figures of the past other than the principal heroes of recent times sink to the status of mere means by which the music historian satisfies his desire for a play with aesthetics, forms, and techniques. We might call this sort of art history—to use a terminology much in...

    • From an Editorial
      (pp. 40-43)

      Our readers may have wondered whyThe Musical Quarterly, devoted to the publication of what we consider valuable additions to our knowledge of music, assigned two of its most eminent contributors to the task of reviewing some recent publications which they dealt with in unmistakable terms of indignation and censure. Presently, the Editor will take the liberty of adding still another publication, a musical encyclopedia,* if it can be called that, to this already fragrant bouquet.

      The old Latin proverb, “to err is human,” is a familiar cliché as well as a profound truth; another of more recent origin, that...

    • Music Past and Present: An Epilogue
      (pp. 44-54)

      The output of international music scholarship has reached staggering proportions. To find one’s way through this ever-thickening forest on even a single topic becomes a steadily more disconcerting venture. We are inevitably moving toward greater reliance on the computer, for there is no question that the machines can perform in a few minutes some of the most laborious operations, such as the compilation of concordances or bibliographies, that otherwise can require months of drudgery. However, we must still master the traditional way of finding facts and attempting their interpretation by hand and brains; pen and paper are not in danger...

  6. New Thoughts on Old Music

    • Palestrina across the Centuries: A Review
      (pp. 57-65)

      Scholarship often proceeds as in a helix, recurring in the same place but at a higher level. So it is with the study of Palestrina and his music, though the unprejudiced attempt to discover the conscious aims of Palestrina the composer is a critical approach of fairly recent inception. Some of the nineteenth-century scholars and critics recognized the necessity of such an approach, without being quite able or willing to divorce it from the romantic Palestrina legend. The image of the Princeps musicae as a distant, almost supernatural, figure has long been familiar to every one, fully accepted even by...

    • Purcell
      (pp. 66-67)

      In the second half of the seventeenth century three great musical nations, England, Spain, and the Low Countries, left the mainstream of European music. After centuries of glorious production and leadership they no longer had anything individual to contribute and became a mere theater for the music coming from the new leaders. The world’s musical headquarters was in Italy and it is significant that Purcell, the solitary great English composer of the age, stated in the preface to his sonatas that he “faithfully endeavour’d a just imitation of the most fam’d Italian Masters.”

      But he did not imitate; he simply...

    • Bach: Artist and Poet
      (pp. 68-71)

      How does the mid-twentieth century stand in relation to Bach? The music teachers, the music histories, and the performances of the Passions and the Mass worshipfully honor him as the teachers of literature, the literary manuals, and the theaters honor Shakespeare or Goethe: the embodiment of greatness in art, beyond reproach and beyond criticism. After two hundred years this greatness seems oppressive, and as we look back at the disappearing giant, we tend to be a little uneasy in the face of such Olympian grandeur. Our times do not enjoy a wondrous security not disturbed by external things and events,...

    • On Handel Scholarship: An Introduction for a Symposium
      (pp. 72-75)

      When I entered upon the career of musicologist, back in the early 1920s, there were no such gatherings of Handelians as this, not because scholars, musicians, and the public did not know Handel, but because they were looking for him in the wrong places. His reputation was so firmly established that it was supposed that nothing could change it, but this confidence was based on the wrong premises. In England, this German-born Italianate Englishman was the “Composer in ordinary to the Protestant religion”, in Germany, and on the Continent in general, he was one ofunsere Grossmeister,and though he...

    • Bach and Handel: Ancillary Rivals
      (pp. 76-79)

      Every popular history of music reports with scorn the English bishops’ reluctance to permit church choirs to assist in Handel’s oratorio performances, which took place in secular halls. But the indignant authors forget that the oratorio was not considered church music but “musical entertainment,” even though it had a strong moral, ethical, and religious tone. These bishops may have been unimaginative, but they were not ignorant. They recognized that the Handelian oratorio represented music that was deliberately moving out of the church and into a secular atmosphere; therefore they regarded it with apprehension.

      A caustic writer of the times gives...

    • Pergolesi
      (pp. 80-82)

      Pergolesi’sStabat Mater,recently performed in Carnegie Hall, is an utterly tender and delicate work, and although it was not meant to be heard in a large hall, from all accounts it appears that Leonard Bernstein and the able soloists performed the cantata with a fine feeling for style. Still, I wonder whether in our day its unique quality and significance are properly appreciated.

      The young Pergolesi, just out of the conservatory for the poor in Naples, no longer represented the august Baroque; he was a thoroughly modern composer, far more so than his contemporaries, though not conforming to the...

    • Mozart
      (pp. 83-88)

      It may be said that there are composers who develop by constantly stepping out of their frame and following a new direction. Because they continually uproot themselves, they grow erratically and may perhaps fail to attain their full stature. Others circle their domain with their first steps; every circle brings them to known territory, yet every circling results in new discoveries and conquests.

      Mozart was of the second type; he was always faithful to himself. Even in his early works most of the “themes” of his music are already present, and it is fascinating to watch how these “themes” reappear...

    • Beethoven
      (pp. 89-98)

      Musical historiography, especially in the nineteenth century, delighted in assigning exceptional positions to certain composers. Such men, like the Earth in the Ptolemaic system, were regarded as the energy center around which the rest of the musical world revolved. This tendency to idealize creative artists has grown, reaching its height in the case of Beethoven, who has long since become the heroic representative not only of his period but of all music, a symbol for all ages.

      Beethoven was the first among the great masters to divorce the creative from the performing artist, the first to whom composing was a...

    • Wagner: The Master of Tristan
      (pp. 99-102)

      A recent performance ofTristan and Isolderecalled the astonishment, admiration, as well as the controversy aroused by this gigantic score in former years. Most of that is now forgotten, yet the work eternally fascinates because of its unique qualities. Wagner’s grand plan for the creation of a national musico-dramatic epic had progressed satisfactorily, and he had reached the middle of the second act ofSiegfried.So far everything was well ordered, if sprawling; the texture was diatonic and under good symphonic control. Then suddenly something happens; his brain is seized with convulsions, and his blood boils. The pictures turn...

  7. Music in Twentieth-Century Civilization

    • Dodecaphony
      (pp. 105-112)

      We should shrink with terror from the discussion of the recent history of music, where every character is a problem, and every reader a friend or an enemy; where a writer is supposed to hoist a flag or party and is devoted to damnation by the adverse faction.

      The above sentence is not ours and, except for the insertion of the wordmusic,should be in quotation marks, for it was written by Gibbon, the future author of the celebratedDecline and Fall,when he was casting about for a suitable subject. However, by substituting music for English history, we...

    • Marxist Theory and Music
      (pp. 113-123)

      Modern musicology often denies the “mystery” of historical reality, reducing it to morphology and style criticism, divorcing the human spirit from the historical. Musico-technical interpretation is far more scientifically applicable, especially in matters of detail, than historical-psychological interpretation; yet in order to approach any creation with understanding, we must know the period and conditions under which the artist labored. Full understanding can be achieved only by a combination of the technical-morphological with the aesthetic-historical; in this way we can assimilate the particular spirit that led the artist’s inspiration to a style. And when we inquire into the meaning of the...

    • Stravinsky
      (pp. 124-135)

      Proust used to say that he could judge an author’s qualities after reading a single sentence of his work. There is a modicum of truth in this patent exaggeration, and in the recent history of arts and letters to no one could it be better applied than to Igor Stravinsky. His qualities could be recognized in one musical sentence, and these qualities made him an international musical institution, a leader acknowledged the world over. For half a century musicians’ ears have been trained to the Stravinsky note as their ancestors’ were to the Wagnerian strains. Two generations of musicians accepted...

    • Bartók at Columbia University
      (pp. 136-140)

      It sometimes appears that man’s worst scourges are not accidental catastrophes that engulf us indiscriminately, but tragedies measured to each of us individually, tragedies that complete our own little destinies. Something of the kind can be seen in the fate of Bèla Bartók. His was a strong soul in a body frail but intense, with penetrating bright eyes, lively gestures, precise and ready words, always alert and courageous, as if the whole man were the blade of intelligence drawn from its sheath. Both war and injustice—and his firm response—rudely disrupted his life’s course.

      Bartók started his career at...

    • A Tribute to Music Scholarship at Mid-Century
      (pp. 141-145)

      When Alfred Einstein published the rediscovered autograph of Mozart’s Kyrie K. 90 inThe Musical Quarterly,he did so with a dedicatory message to Paul Hirsch—patron of music scholarship rivaled in largesse, understanding, loving care, and public spirit only by the grand seigneurs of the past—who had then reached the proverbial three score and ten years. But was not the dedicator himself about to reach this age which Cicero so beautifully characterized as man’s second creative period? “The soul is no longer the servant of passions but has become its own master.” Nor was he the only distinguished...

    • Devotional Music at Mid-Century
      (pp. 146-154)

      Christmas is approaching, and all the hidden Christian virtues that during the rest of the year lay somnolent in people’s bosoms begin to stir. The stores remind us that the greatest of these virtues is “giving”; the magazines, swollen to double their normal size by the same zealous appeal for brotherly giving, are resplendent with pictures of happy families opening packages; while Santa Claus, preferring the warm and congenial atmosphere of the department store to the cold climate of the bleak North Pole, gravely takes suggestions from the wide-eyed young citizenry, not yet able to practice the Christian virtues unaided....

    • The Film Amadeus
      (pp. 155-162)

      In the Romantic era, novels and plays based on long-past, often mythical events, mostly drawn from medieval tales and handled with untrammeled poetic license, became very popular. But presently men of letters began to wonder whether real historical characters might not be more convincing than fictional ones, and whether, rather than being used as props upon which to hang a story, they might not serve as means of conjuring up a period’s soul in a way that would transcend archeological minutiae. This concept is artistically challenging and potentially fruitful, but it places the author in a quandary. To what extent...

    • A Music Master for the White House
      (pp. 163-165)

      Some of the London papers took Queen Elizabeth gently to task for the type of music performed at her receptions. It riled the British, who look back upon a proud past of “official” ceremonial music, that their well-educated Queen should have such mediocre taste, and that she should be unaware of some of the magnificent traditions that surround court functions. The papers tactfully refrained from comparing her musical taste with that of her predecessor of the same name, though they could have pointed out that Good Queen Bess was indeed a connoisseur.

      Under the first two Hanoverians, the man called...

    • Menace of the Machine
      (pp. 166-168)

      In a recent issueTimemagazine, under the heading “Science,” reports a meeting held at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory during an international conference on the “Mechanization of Thought Processes.” The assembled scientists bewailed “the irrational human reverence for human intelligence,” and in particular, Dr. Marvin L. Minsky of M. I. T. seemed to be convinced that there is nothing special about creativity, while Dr. S. Gill of Ferranti Ltd. was confident that machines will be made in the near future that will compose music.

      Now I am going by what I have read inTime,and their reporting may be...

  8. On Performance Practice

    • From the Preface for a Book on Performance Practice
      (pp. 171-174)

      The present book began some time ago in a rather chance encounter with an ensemble playing early Haydn quartets. The occasion had an aura of reverential solemnity, the program notes containing excellent information (this was a resident quartet in a major university) as well as the entire history and pedigree of each of the four instruments upon which the quartet was playing. But the sound was thin and matte, the playing very cautious, and the tuning slipped perceptibly, requiring considerable corrective activity between movements (all gut strings and old bows were used). Well, it was a rather dull evening, and...

    • Authenticity
      (pp. 175-184)

      The great of literature and the visual arts who have cast off earthly dust have triumphantly taken their place in the pantheon of memory. Literary works are published in collected editions, while museums and private patrons vie for the canvases and sculptures of “old masters.” Millennia have not made us forget theIliadorOedipus,theWinged Victory,or theDiscus Thrower;they are alive, because they are seen afresh with the eyes of each new generation. But among the great of music there are many whose works are never heard, whose very names are unfamiliar to highly cultivated persons...

    • Performance Practice and the Voice
      (pp. 185-198)

      Singing is one of the primordial acts of man, the direct experience of his body, the immediate expression of his mental states and emotions. With a few exceptions, singing has occupied a central position in rites, pagan or Christian; people sang even without words, for they sang what is difficult to express in words. The human voice is the richest “instrument”; all others try to come as close to it as possible, and for centuries the authors of tracts and tutors urged violists, fiddlers, and wind players to emulate singers. Thus Telemann: “Singing is the fundament of all music. Whoever...

    • Period Instruments
      (pp. 199-209)

      New tools are usually experimental and are gradually improved as their users learn how to handle them. Musical instruments similarly go through many improvements until they arrive at their stage of greatest utility. Our heritage of these musical tools is extremely rich, and a special branch of musicology, called organology, was created to investigate their history and nature. As we follow their development, we find that many have disappeared; some at a certain point in their evolution were supplanted by kindred instruments more capable of further development, and some, like the flutes, guitars, and horns, have survived millennia to serve...

    • Ornamentation and Improvisation
      (pp. 210-231)

      The “long lost, late won, and yet half regained” art of ornamentation, as it has been called, figures prominently in the theories of performance practice, because improvised ornamentation in music used to be the completion of the written score. The practice is as old as music itself, though its modern terminology comes in good measure from the visual arts, with the attendant confusion when applied to music. Embellishments, diminution, division,passaggi, gorgia, broderie, agréments, Verzierung,and whatever else they were called, these additions to existing compositions were improvised or written down, indicated by special signs or simply by small notes,...

    • Allegory and Symbolism in Music
      (pp. 232-242)

      Because music is not verbally accountable, a special language of metaphors and symbols had to be created to carry its messages. Now we have arrived at the most esoteric and arcane part of the aesthetics of music, and one which is of particular importance to critics and performers.

      Everything we utter, even simple sounds, is expressive of something; the question is how these expressions are understood by other persons. All manner of forces, energies, tensions, and relaxations emanate from music, but they can be apprehended only symbolically.

      We are well acquainted with such symbols as, for instance, the cross for...

  9. Postscript
    (pp. 243-246)

    The long career reflected in these essays offers the critical observer a picture that is complex yet equally clear and impressive. To the question once asked by a neophyte, “What is Professor Lang’s speciality?,” there could be only one answer: “Comprehensiveness.” His interest combined far-flung aspects of the musicological spectrum, and he was devoted to safeguarding flawless professionalism as much as to addressing a vast readership.

    The German editor who invited the opening article of this volume—written originally as a contribution to a Festschrift for the president of Bärenreiter Verlag, Kassel—received it with both delight and surprise. Lang,...

  10. Index
    (pp. 247-254)