The Early Romantic Era: Between Revolutions, 1789 and 1848/the Late Romantic Era: From the Mid-19th Century to World War I

Article excerpt

Alexander Ringer, ed. The Early Romantic Era: Between Revolutions, 1789 and 1848. Music and Society. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991. x, 325 pp. ISBN 0-13-222399-6 (hardcover), ISBN 0-13-222332-5 (softcover). Referred to below as I.

1. Alexander L. Ringer, 'The Rise of Urban Musical Life between the Revolutions, 1789-1848"; 2. Ralph P. Locke, "Paris: Centre of Intellectual Ferment"; 3. Sigrid Wiesmann, "Vienna: Bastion of Conservatism"; 4. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling, "Berlin: 'Music in the Air"' 5. Sieghart Döhring" "Dresden and Leipzig: Two Bourgeois Centres"; 6. John Rosselli, 'Italy: The Centrality of Opera"; 7. Joel Sachs, "London: The Professionalization of Music"; 8. Gerald R. Seaman, "Moscow and St Petersburg"; 9. Kathryn Bumpass, 'The USA: A Quest for Improvement"; 10. Gerard Béhague, "Latin America: Independence and Nationalism."

Jim Samson, ed. The Late Romantic Era: From the Mid-19th Century to World War L Music and Society. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991. x, 463 pp. ISBN 0-13-524174-X (hardcover), ISBN 0-13-524182-0 (softcover). Referred to below as IL

1. Jim Samson, "Music and Society"; 2. John Deathridge, "Germany: The 'Special Path'"; 3. Paul Banks, "Vienna: Absolutism and Nostalgia"; 4. James Harding, "Paris: Opera Reigns Supreme"; 5. John Rosselli, "Italy: The Decline of a Tradition"; 6. Lionel Salter, "Spain: A Nation in Turbulence"; 7. David Fanning, "Russia: East Meets West"; 8. Jim Samson, "East Central Europe: The Struggle for National Identity"; 9. John Bergsagel, "Scandinavia: Unity in Diversity"; 10. Donald Burrows, "Victorian England: An Age of Expansion"; 11. Charles Hamm, "The USA: Classical, Industrial and Invisible Music"; 12. Gerard Béhague, "Latin America: Reflections and Reactions"; 13. Arnold Whittall, "Germany: Cross-Currents and Contradictions"; 14. Paul Banks, "Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Modernism"; 15. Jann Pasler, 'Taris: Conflicting Notions of Progress."

At the outset I should note that these books represent major contributions to the burgeoning literature about musical history, institutions, and practices in relation to their social contexts. Thus it is particularly regrettable that, due to the space limitations of a summary review, the books cannot be reviewed in the detail that their rich and varied contents demand. Nevertheless, I shall make an attempt to produce a meaningful discussion of their overall character and contents, while pointing out details worthy of note.

Let us first examine the publications from the perspective of the stated intention of the series. In his "Preface" to each volume of the series, editor Stanley Sadie explains

the intention [of the Music and Society series] is to view musical history not as a series of developments in some hermetic world of its own but rather as a series of responses to social, economic and political circumstances and to religious and intellectual stimuli. We want to explain not simply what happened, but why it happened, and why it happened when and where it did (I and Ð, p. ix).

However, the reader should not expect here a study of "society in music," in other words, a sociology of music in the sense of John Shepherd's Music as Social Text, for which "the question no longer remains that of how to understand music and individuals in terms of society ..., [but rather] how to understand societies and individuals in terms of music."9 Music sociologists Shepherd and Simon Frith, among others, eschew the traditional assumptions and working methods of musicology in interrogating social practices and meanings in music.

In contrast, the social history of music Music and Society belongs to the venerable, worthy tradition most effectively represented by William Weber's Music and the Middle Class,10 which itself can trace its lineage back to Arthur Loesser's Men, Women, and Pianos11 and Henry Raynor'.s A Social History of Music,12 among others. This tradition, which we may designate as "music in society," heavily relies upon contemporary sources to sketch out a detailed documentary history of music in light of its socio-political, economic, and intellectual contexts. …