The German lied, or art song, is considered one of the most intimate of all musical genres—often focused on the poetic speaker’s inner world and best suited for private and semi-private performance in the home or salon. Yet, problematically, any sense of inwardness in lieder depends on outward expression through performance.
With this paradox at its heart, Intimacy, Performance, and the Lied in the Early Nineteenth Century explores the relationships between early nineteenth-century theories of the inward self, the performance practices surrounding inward lyric poetry and song, and the larger conventions determining the place of intimate poetry and song in the public concert hall. Jennifer Ronyak studies the cultural practices surrounding lieder performances in northern and central Germany in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, demonstrating how presentations of lieder during the formative years of the genre put pressure on their sense of interiority. She examines how musicians responded to public concern that outward expression would leave the interiority of the poet, the song, or the performer unguarded and susceptible to danger. Through this rich performative paradox Ronyak reveals how a song maintains its powerful intimacy even during its inherently public performance.
List of Abbreviations
1. Safeguarding the Self
2. Breathing Subjectivity
3. Serious Play in the Salon
4. The Poetic Public Sphere
5. Lieder in an Aria’s Clothing
6. Mignon as Public Property
Jennifer Ronyak’s primary interest in this important new book is in the power of performance, and her radical insistence is that the social contexts of performance generate meanings often quite different from those we find by examining text-music relationships. Zelter and Goethe, Mignon, Anna Milder-Hauptmann, the origins of Die schöne Müllerin—Ronyak focuses on a fascinating gallery of characters fictive and real and on songs we will hear differently from now on.
Susan Youens, author of Heinrich Heine and the Lied
Through a series of carefully selected case studies [Ronyak] recontextualises the many ways in which an ideology of intimacy became significant in the interpretation of early nineteenth-century German song.
Laura Tunbridge, author of Singing in the Age of Anxiety: Lieder Performance in New York and London between the World Wars
In this erudite and eminently readable book, Ronyak rescues the Lied from its sentimental image as an expression of artistic isolation and melancholy, chronicling a vital world of conversation and social exchange around the performance of Lieder. Tracing a graceful arc from Goethe’s and Schiller’s thoughts on intimacy through playful performances in Berlin salons to the exhibitionism of Beethoven’s 'Adelaide,' Ronyak traces the motions through which the deeply private sentiments of lyric poetry could be rendered in public, and the key role played by music in this translation of intimacy into the marketplace.
Mary Ann Smart, editor of Siren Songs : Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera