The European Salon – Nineteenth-Century Salonmusik

Call for Papers

International Bilingual Conference

The European Salon: Nineteenth-Century Salonmusik

2-4 October 2015, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Deadline for submissions: 6 February 2015

Keynote speakers: Professor Susan Youens, Professor Harald Krebs, and Professor Glenn Stanley

As socio-cultural institutions, salons had a great political, artistic and scientific impact on nineteenth-century history. Although the depth of salon acquaintanceships that developed between salon attendees of different backgrounds is questioned by such famous salon visitors as Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) and Frances Milton Trollope (1779-1863), the attempt at overcoming social, religious and educational limitations in the salon was a singular phenomenon of the time. The typical salon sociability, which gathered a few regular attendees and a changeable circle of visitors around a female host and moderator, provided a unique opportunity for female artists to share their knowledge and skills on a semi-public platform, which also welcomed artists of varied social and cultural backgrounds.

While the purposes of nineteenth-century salons were diverse, all of them had in common the ubiquity of music. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) considers music as the ‘most innocent and most comfortable mediator in a society’, which reflects the purely entertaining function of music in non-musical salons. In an ironic way, E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) provides a critical perspective on the role of music in the salon in his satire Des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreislers Dissertatiuncula über den hohen Wert der Musik (published in 1812): ‘You enter the hall, the centre of attention is the steaming kettle, around which the elegant ladies and gentlemen are gathering. Gambling tables are being moved, the piano has been opened, and the music serves as a pleasant way of entertainment. Indeed, a good musical selection will not do any harm as even the card players will accept it, although they are dealing with such important issues as profit and loss’. The ubiquity of music was related to the domestic status of music towards the middle of the nineteenth century, as then, according to Andreas Ballstaedt, the salon became an opportunity for members of the bourgeoisie to present their houses to a selected audience in order to demonstrate their wealth and educational background. However, as the aesthetic appreciation of music increased, the marginal role assigned to music in a salon was, for connoisseurs, no longer acceptable. In 1844/1845, Hermann Hirschbach (1812-1888) makes the critical point that ‘everybody plays the piano, and a bunch of bad composers is rushing to satisfy the lustfulness of low-standard dilettantes’. The decrease of compositional thought in music specifically intended for performance in a salon was also noted by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), who coined the term Salonmusik for such productions in 1836. He describes Salonmusik as a ‘combination of sentiment and piano passage’, a definition which alludes to the distinction between music lovers driven by sentimental emotion and connoisseurs looking for an intellectual challenge.

The audience in a nineteenth-century salon could include both music lovers and connoisseurs, well-educated and rather less-educated dilettantes, which resulted in a repertoire of mixed compositional quality. Additionally, musical salons such as the Sunday gatherings led by Fanny Hensel (1805-1847) attracted excellent musicians and composers at an international level, whose performance and compositional standards were incomparably superior to those in a non-musical salon. In 1853, Johann Christian Lobe (1797-1881) responds to the general renunciation of music for the salon in the middle of the nineteenth century. He categorises Beethoven’s bagatelles, Weber’s Aufforderung zum Tanze, Schubert’s marches for four hands, Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words and Schumann’s Kinderszenen as Salonmusik, and asks provocatively if these compositions should be despised just because initially they were composed for performance in salons. ‘Nobody would deny that there are cheap and inelegant compositions among the Salonmusik,’ he continues, ‘but we must not disregard the entire genre because of such indifferent compositions’. In accordance with Lobe, both Ballstaedt and Peter Gradenwitz ascertain that the musical repertoire generated by the nineteenth-century salon was as diverse as the salons’ purposes and audiences. It ranges from Lieder to opera arias, passages from sacred and chamber music to piano miniatures.

Encouraged by Ballstaedt’s and Gradenwitz’s observation as well as Johann Christian Lobe’s espousal of Salonmusik,and despite the rather sceptical nineteenth-century reception of music for the salon, this interdisciplinary conference seeks to re-evaluate the significance of both the broad and diverse category of music performed in and/or composed for the salon and the extra-musical functions of the salon within the context of the nineteenth-century socio-cultural discourse.

We invite abstracts for individual 20-minute papers by both academic scholars and performers in either English or German; for themed panel sessions (comprising three individual papers); and for roundtable sessions (up to six people, each presenting a position paper, followed by a discussion). Considering the practical nature of the overall topic, we especially welcome proposals for lecture recitals and other performative forms of presentation.

Proposed research areas include but are not limited to:

–          The nineteenth-century European salon as a social forum and its artistic output as a social document;

–          The salon as a special performative opportunity for women;

–          A re-classification of composers specialising in Salonmusik and composers of European art music performing in European salons;

–          The role of music during the Biedermeier period;

–          Case studies of specific nineteenth-century European music salons and/or their attendees;

–          The relationship between salonieres, attendees, performers, publishers, and/or reviewers, i.e. the relationship between the private, the semi-public and the public domains;

–          Publishers of Salonmusik and their contribution to the popularity of the genre;

–          Virtuosity and quasi-virtuosic Salonmusik versus dilettantism;

–          A re-evaluation of art-forms typically performed in salons, and their impact on the musical repertoire of the nineteenth century and beyond;

–          Analyses of typical Salonmusik and works performed in salons such as fantasias, impromptus, etudes, transcriptions, variations, polonaises, ballades, waltzes, boleros, mazurkas and others.

Abstracts of c300 words, along with a short biography of no more than 150 words and an outline of the technology needed for the presentation, should be sent in a word-compatible format by Friday, 6 February 2015 to Successful applicants will be notified by mid-March 2015.

The organising committee includes Brigitte Bark (NUIM), Anja Bunzel (NUIM), Dr Lorraine Byrne Bodley (NUIM), Dr Patrick Devine (NUIM), Dr Alison Hood (NUIM), Dr Aisling Kenny (DkIT), Barbora Kubečková (NUIM), and Dr Wolfgang Marx (UCD).

Comments are closed.