Saturday, September 29, 2012
College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA)
Erin Jerome, "Haydn’s L’incontro improvviso: Deceitful Dervishes, Greedy Servants, and the Meta-Performance of Alla Turca Style"
Haydn’s L’incontro improvviso (1775), a reworking of Gluck’s La Rencontre imprévue (1764), was composed as part of the festivities surrounding the four-day visit to Eszterháza of Archduke Ferdinand, Habsburg governor of Milan, and his wife, Maria Beatrice d’Este. With its overture in "Turkish" style, Egyptian setting, and standard bduction plot, the opera was in keeping with the exotic theme characterizing the courtly spectacles for the royal visit. “Castagno, castagna,” a patently orientalized begging song that the scheming Calender performs for the slave Osmin, among other unsuspecting victims, has often been cited as a textbook example of alla turca style. The seeming simplicity of this aria, however, masks an underlying contextual complexity that is itself a commentary on both the trend of exoticism as well as the very act of performance. “Castagno, castagna” is a multi-layered performance and therefore must be read within the context of performance. In fact, the performer in question here is an imposter—the Calender is a fraudulent mendicant dervish of dubious moral standing. The aria may therefore be considered meta-performative: the Calender is actually performing a song for another character, and Haydn gives the work an air of artificiality that distances it from the rest of the opera’s music. To consider it simply as conforming to the imitative aesthetics of the eighteenth century—as simply employing the topic of the Turkish as a coloristic gesture—is to overlook the depth of Haydn’s characterization.
Julia Doe, "How Opéra-Comique Became French, or, Untangling the Origins of Revolutionary Opera"
Under the Old Regime, “national opera” in France was synonymous with tragédie lyrique. Success in Paris meant success at the Opéra, and the competing genre of opéra-comique went largely unacknowledged—dismissed as frivolous in aristocratic circles and ignored in the frequent literary debates over national musical style. By the end of the Revolutionary decade, however, this situation had essentially reversed. The most prominent composers in France now worked for the Comédie-Italienne and the Théâtre Feydeau, and opéra-comique emerged as a locus of national pride and debate. The accepted explanation for this shift may seem self-evident: during the Revolution, audiences rejected the elite realm of classical tragedy and embraced the more “popular” opéra-comique as a legitimate, national art. This narrative places an abrupt stylistic break in 1789, emphasizing how opéra-comique became spectacular and patriotic in response to the new social order.
This paper sheds new light on opéra-comique’s rise to national genre and, in turn, on the origins of Revolutionary opera in France. Using neglected archival evidence from the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra in Paris, I demonstrate how many of the key traits of Revolutionary opera evolved well before the storming of the Bastille—responses not to political events, but to the practical exigencies of theatrical administration. In 1783 the Comédie-Italienne, home of opéra-comique, moved to a large and luxurious new theater, which enabled it to produce (and finance) works of truly expansive scale. The directors of the troupe, now emboldened to take on their competitors at the Opéra, encouraged composers to select heroic, historical subjects. Not only did such patriotic tales inspire fantastic scenery and effects, but they also enhanced the prestige of opéra-comique, which grew increasingly serious and nationalistic throughout the 1780s. This research challenges the traditional understanding of the theater of the Revolution, underscoring the surprising continuities between Revolutionary opera and the practices of the Old Regime.
Daniel DiCenso, "More Roman than “Gregorian,” More Frankish than “Old Roman”"
In the long-standing debate about the relationship between “Gregorian” (Roman-Frankish) chant and any “Roman” or “Old Roman” precursor, it has been taken for granted that no early Italian sources survive. At the 2010 meeting of the American Musicological Society, I revealed that, in fact, a nearly complete Italian source of chant dating to ca. 850 does survive in Monza, Biblioteca Capitolare, f.-1/101. Though questions remain about whether this manuscript originated in Monza or Bergamo, as a mid-ninth-century, Italian source of the Gregorian repertory, there is no question that the Monza manuscript stands as a kind of “missing link.” But what does it tell us?
My first work on Monza f.-1/101 focused on dating and authenticating the origins of manuscript, tracing the historiography by which the manuscript came to be overlooked, and producing a transcription. With this now complete, I have turned my attention to studying the contents of the Monza manuscript in comparison to the early northern sources of Gregorian chant and later sources of Roman chant. Indeed, the Monza manuscript tells a fascinating story: the chants it contains are both more Roman than the early Frankish sources while also being more Frankish than the late-surviving “Old Roman” sources. Based on new findings, this paper will reveal what the contents of the Monza manuscript suggest about the state of transmission in the mid-ninth century and whether, at least in northern Italy, transmission seems to have been characterized more by a process of Roman export, Frankish invention and/or Roman-Frankish combination.
Daniel Libin, "Schubert’s Gretchen Songs and the Eternal Feminine"
Schubert’s four Gretchen works from Goethe’s Faust: Part I, form a virtual highlight reel of the character’s solo moments in the drama. With the exception of the a capella, “Chor der Engel” (D440, June 1816), all of the music Schubert composed for Faust uses one of her texts. It is fair to say that in song composition, Gretchen inspired Schubert above all other characters in the tragedy. Schubert’s Gretchen pieces—three songs and one dramatic scene—date from his early years as a composer and are concentrated within a three-year span: “Gretchen am Spinnrade” (D118, 19 October 1814), “Szene aus Goethes Faust” (D126, 12 December 1814), “Der König in Thule,” (D367, early 1816), and “Gretchens Bitte” (“Ach neige”) (D564, May 1817). During these same years, Schubert was also composing songs and hymns related to the Virgin Mary, including five of his seven settings of the Salve regina, his two settings of the Stabat mater, and his only Magnificat. The simultaneity of his “Gretchen” and “Marian” phases advances the notion that a thematic duality had manifested in Schubert’s psyche, and that the plights of the Holy Mother and Gretchen were related aspects of Schubert’s early musical expression. These two figures, representing distinct feminine archetypes, confront each other in the last song Schubert composed from Faust, “Gretchens Bitte.” This paper considers how the three songs’ various formal designs reflect Gretchen’s dramatic progression, and suggests how aspects of Schubert’s biography reveal his own preoccupation with the feminine ideal—one that may contribute to our understanding of Goethe’s drama and his concept of the “Eternal Feminine.”
Caroline Kita, "Myth and Meta-Drama: Mahler’s Eighth Symphony"
Since its highly successful premiere on 12 September 1910 in Munich, Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony, coined the "Symphony of a Thousand," has inspired a cult-like fascination. Mahler's decision to pair the Latin hymn Veni Creator Spiritus with the final scene from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust II in this vocal-symphonic masterpiece has sparked questions as to the larger philosophical connections that the composer drew between the religious text and the secular drama. It has been suggested that one source of Mahler's interest in Faust was his friend, Siegfried Lipiner (1856-1911), a poet, philosopher, and cultural critic who played a significant role in the development of the composer's Weltanschauung. Lipiner's dissertation on Faust, written in 1894, has been lost; however, this paper turns to other sources, including Lipiner's critical writings on Faust dating from the early 1880s, to draw connections between Mahler's symphony and Lipiner's larger cultural agenda. Lipiner's fascination for myth and meta-drama, and the role of music in creating this ideal art-form, had a strong resonance with Mahler's epic vision for his symphony, a work which the composer referred to as "das Größte, was ich bis jetzt gemacht" (GMB 335). Thus, this paper presents new perspectives on the vision behind Mahler's Eighth Symphony by discussing the music and texts in the context of the composer's intellectual friendship with Lipiner, and the popular trend toward mythically inspired dramatic-works in fin-de-siècle Vienna.
Erinn Knyt, "Ferruccio Busoni and the New England Conservatory: Pedagogue in the Making"
Although students have left memoirs describing private lessons and master classes with Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), little is known about how Busoni taught in his early years at the Helsinki Music Institute (1888-1890), the Moscow Conservatory (1890-1891), and the New England Conservatory (1891-1892). Particularly unexplored is Busoni’s time at the New England Conservatory. This can be explained, in part, by a paucity of source material and lack of published or private accounts of his teaching there. Regular grade books were only maintained beginning in 1908. Additionally, there are few letters from Busoni describing his time at the Conservatory.
Based on information from the New England Conservatory Calendar of 1891-1892, class cards, concert programs, articles published in the Conservatory’s monthly magazine, the Boston Musical Herald, in conjunction with letters written by Busoni, this article contributes new knowledge about Busoni’s time at the New England Conservatory, including information about work conditions, names of students, and teaching methods. It also documents how this time was pivotal in Busoni’s development as a pedagogue through an analysis of contemporaneous pedagogical editorial projects. In the process, the paper reveals details about musical life and music education in America at the turn of the 20th century.
Brian Levy, "Form, Interaction, and Implication in the Classic Quartet of John Coltrane"
The few existing analyses of John Coltrane’s music seek out motivic connections and other symbols of unity, indebted to a particular analytical model from Classical music. These analyses invariably focus on the solo apart from the interactive context within which it takes shape. Contrary to these trends in jazz scholarship, the following paper offers an alternative view of form that corresponds to how the music is conceived, focusing on its interactive nature. Original transcriptions demonstrate how Coltrane and the members of his Classic Quartet create a rhetoric of tension and release through implied rhythmic and harmonic layers that are superimposed on predetermined conventional substructures. Historical examples that correspond to this view of form are also examined in order to reveal a precedent for what occurs in Coltrane’s music more complexly. Unlike the examples of rhythmic opposition in pre-Coltrane jazz, wherein a single, repeated rhythm, a riff, is played in opposition to a clearly articulated meter, in Coltrane’s Classic Quartet, drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner play highly syncopated rhythms obscuring both the metric demarcations of the substructure and the metrical boundaries of the implied meter. Likewise in the harmonic dimension, on a modal or conventional harmonic substructure Coltrane and Tyner superimpose harmonic progressions and cycles based on third-relations. Because the substructures, harmonic and metric, are attenuated so emphatically, in order to experience the drama and interaction in a way consistent with how the music is conceived, the listener must intuit and retain the substructures as a measure against the layers of implied dissonant rhythmic and harmonic structures.