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The German «Lied» after Hugo Wolf

From Hans Pfitzner to Anton Webern

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Lesley-Ann Brown

Following the development of the German Lied after the nineteenth century – when it was widely known as the setting of Romantic poetry to music – this book explores the changing artistic scene in the early twentieth century, as rapid social, economic and environmental changes affected German cultural production. The Lied then faced not only a crisis of identity, but also a threat to its survival. This book considers the literary and musical ideas that both challenged and complemented each other as new directions in songwriting were developed across the modern period.
The composers selected for their relevance in Lieder composition during this time illustrate not only the diversity of their musical thought but also a changing approach to the relationship between the poetic text and its musical counterpart. Hans Pfitzner represents the determination to maintain established tradition; subsequently, a chronological progression through the individuality of Paul Hindemith and social integrity of Hanns Eisler leads to the point where transformation of the genre can be said to have begun, with Arnold Schönberg. With the Lieder of Alban Berg and Anton Webern, the genre arrived at a point of convergence with the ideals of German modernism. This study offers new insights into the cultural significance of German songwriting in the first part of the twentieth century.
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Chapter 4: Musical Perspectives: Tradition and New Directions

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CHAPTER 4

Musical Perspectives: Tradition and New Directions

The published public debate and discourse on current trends and future directions in music which took place during the early years of the twentieth century provides an overview of the diversity and strength of opinion held by prominent musicians of the time. Through this, the wider artistic environment in which the Lied needed to maintain a significant place can be viewed from the perspective of those actively involved, not only in composition, but also in expressing and defending their ideologies in relation to tradition, contemporary musical trends, compositional theory and the way forward into what they envisaged as a productive future. While the main participators were not all Lieder composers, the diversity of their respective points of view and the intensity with which they involved themselves in discussion presents the German musical world of the time in a broad spectrum, from which it is possible to assess the extent to which the Lied was present as a point of focus of their ideas.

In 1907 the first edition of a publication appeared which was to provoke a public debate that moved around the German musical world for the next few years, drawing in a number of prominent musicians. Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst,1 a pamphlet written by the Italian-German composer and pianist domiciled at this time in Berlin, Ferruccio Busoni (1886–1924), initially received a quiet, although interested reception. It was to the second...

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