Reaching Out: European Song Across Borders
14 October 2018, 11:00 - 16:30
The Berrow Foundation Building
[See below for schedule]
The history of European song is a history of crossing and ignoring borders. This study day will explore some of the ways that song has helped to define the culture of the whole continent by bringing together people and ideas. Composers of song have often been profoundly affected by travel – Mendelssohn for one pursued a literal ‘musical Grand Tour’ – which has exposed them to new literary as well as musical influences. Economic centres such as London and Paris have acted as magnets for artists and patrons, with the result that some songs have had their most welcoming reception far from their land of origin. While it is a commonplace to describe music as a ‘language that crosses borders’, the works of many poets have done so as well, such as Schubert’s settings of Shakespeare, or Schumann’s of Byron and Burns. Further border-crossings emerge, in turn, in the work of writers who allude to European songs in their novels and poems.
In our study day, prominent scholars and writers celebrate the cross-European travels of earlier musicians, and explore questions such as what happens when words are translated, or when composers seek to evoke an alien homeland.
Topics to be presented include Brahms’s and Schumann’s Translated Song-Texts, The International Transmission of French Song, Lieder in London and New York, Cover Versions of Schubert, and the international inspirations for Moscow’s ‘House of Song’. The six talks frame a lunchtime concert in which national and cultural borders are dissolved by song.
Professor Helen Abbott (Birmingham, French)
Dr Rosamund Bartlett, Russianist, writer, and broadcaster
Musorgsky, Ravel and the International Mission of Moscow’s House of Song, 1908-1918
This talk will explore the legacy of Russia’s first true chamber vocalist. Together with her Franco-Russian husband, Maria Olenina D’Alheim introduced audiences in pre-revolutionary Moscow to Lieder, and Parisian audiences to Musorgsky, as well as organising international competitions to stimulate translations of texts into Russian and the composition of new songs, one of which was won by Ravel.
Dr Natasha Loges (Royal College of Music)
Brahms the European
Although Brahms was quintessentially German in his thinking and lifestyle, he nonetheless ranged freely across Europe through his song-writing, inspired particularly by the much-maligned poet Georg Friedrich Daumer. This talk shows how Brahms drew on Daumer’s poetic translations to evoke both the diversity and universality of Europe’s various peoples.
Dr Robert Samuels (OU, Music)
Cover Versions of Schubert
To travel across borders, songs need to be interpreted afresh and in new contexts. In popular music, reinterpretation of a song as a ‘cover version’ uses or confuses the roles of performer, composer, and original performer. This talk looks at the history of interpretation and reinterpretation of Schubert’s songs, which have lived a full an unconstrained life through transcriptions, arrangements, and translations regardless of national or aesthetic borders.
Professor Laura Tunbridge (Oxford, Music)
Transatlantic suspicion of the “amorous Teuton”
This talk will examine Anglo-American attitudes towards German art song in the aftermath of the First World War. German music and musicians had been prohibited from concert programmes during the hostilities. Attempts to reinstate them evoked the value of internationalism and Western civilization but many remained suspicious of what the critic Richard Capell referred to as the “gush” of the “amorous Teuton”.
Richard Wigmore, writer and broadcaster
A Cook's Tour in Song
In his Myrthen, presented to Clara on the eve of their marriage, Robert Schumann stretched the geographical boundaries of Lieder while charting the fluctuating emotions they had experienced during their secret engagement. Richard Wigmore looks at the relationship between poetry and music in songs that range from Goethe's exoticised Persia and Heine's dream of India, via Thomas Moore’s hedonistic Venice, to heroism and tragedy in Robbie Burns’s Highlands.
11.15am Three 30-minute talks
12.45pm Lunch break
1.45pm RECITAL: Songs Without Borders, Holywell Music Room (separate booking required)
3pm Three 30-minute talks
SpeakerProfessor Helen Abbott is a specialist in nineteenth-century French poetry and music at the University of Birmingham (UK). She writes about word-music relationships deployed in poetic language and critical-philosophical texts. An expert in using digital methodologies, she directs the AHRC-funded Baudelaire Song Project which has recently launched a database of over 1,700 songs in 25 languages, and 40 different musical genres www.baudelairesong.org/search. The project also showcases a new networked model for analysing and visualising word/mus... Read Full Biography
SpeakerRosamund Bartlett is a cultural historian with expertise in Russian literature, music, and art. She has a particular interest in European Modernism, opera, and the intersection between politics, history and the arts, and has lectured on these subjects at universities and public institutions around the world. Her books include Wagner and Russia and Tolstoy: A Russian Life. She has also written a biography of Chekhov, and published translations of his short stories and letters. Her new translation of Anna Karenina was published in 2014. ... Read Full Biography
SpeakerNatasha Loges was appointed Professor of Musicology at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg in spring 2022. Her books include Brahms and His Poets (2017), and the coedited collections Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall (2014), Brahms in Context (2019), Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century (2019) and German Song Onstage (2020), and she has published various chapters and essays in edited collections. Her work has been funded by the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the American Musicological S... Read Full Biography
SpeakerRobert Samuels is a Senior Lecturer in Music at The Open University in the UK. His work centres on music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and is principally concerned with analytical theory, aesthetics, and the relationship between music and literature. He has written on Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Cage, Boulez and Birtwistle amongst others. His book Mahler’s Sixth Symphony: A study in musical semiotics was published by CUP in 1995. He was academic advisor for the award-winning BBC television series Symphony, made in partne... Read Full Biography
SpeakerLaura Tunbridge is a musicologist whose research has centred on German Romanticism, with a particular interest in vocal and chamber music and its reception through criticism, performance, and composition. She studied at Oxford (B.A.), Nottingham (M.A.) and Princeton (PhD) and taught at the Universities of Reading and Manchester before joining the Faculty of Music at Oxford in 2014, where she is now a Professor and Henfrey Fellow and tutor in music at St Catherine’s College. Laura’s books include Schumann’s Late Style (C... Read Full Biography
SpeakerRichard Wigmore read modern languages at Cambridge and studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and in Salzburg. After a career as a professional singer he now works as a writer, broadcaster and lecturer specialising in Romantic and Classical chamber music, and in Lieder. Richard writes for Gramophone, BBC Music Magazineand other journals, gives regular pre-concert talks, and has taught classes in the history and interpretation of Lieder at Birkbeck College, the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall. He appears frequently on Radio 3... Read Full Biography
This event is part of a series:
The 17th Oxford Lieder Festival will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song. Our Grand Tour of song will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural and geographical influences. International stars, prize-winning young artists and a wide range of concerts and other related events will take us on this beguiling journey. View the ...