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You are here:  Home  >  Journal of Music Criticism 5 (2021)

Journal of Music Criticism 5 (2021)

Registered Tribunale di Lucca – RG n. 1323/2017 | ISSN 2532-9995 | © Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini. All rights reserved.
  • Introduction. The Press as a Source in Musicology

Isabel Pina – Mariana Calado CESEM – NOVA / FCSH

  • Reading with Provincial Eyes: the French Musical Press beyond the Capital

Katharine Ellis (University of Cambridge) | kje32@cam.ac.uk

Abstract
Through the lens of France, this paper focuses as much on the press itself as on its criticism and its critics, and asks what characterises a local, or regional, musical press in contradistinction to that of the capital. What, if any, were the models for the large number of French regional journals specialising in music between c.1870 and c.1914, and amid what conditions and constraints did music critics such as Étienne Destranges (Nantes), Sullian Collin (Rennes) or Léon Vallas (Lyon) write in their respective towns? Where the French capital offered innumerable professional openings and a Babel of conflicting opinions expressed in the papers, in smaller urban centres with a handful of outlets for music criticism, ‘linchpin’ critics or journals were clearly evident, with all the responsibility that entailed for music education and advocacy. Education and advocacy for whom, though, and to what end? The decentralist and regionalist characteristics of provincial France are interwoven here with music-critical histories from urban centres of radically different sizes and shapes.

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  • Musical Machines: Foreignness, Gender, and the Mechanical Style

Kristen Strandberg (University of Evansville, IN) | ks532@evansville.edu

Abstract
French critics frequently asserted the superiority of French adult male musicians, often discussing child, female, and foreign performers in language that implied their inferiority, especially during the 1830s and 1840s. Paganini’s first visit to Paris in 1831 kicked off a wave of virtuosic violin performances in the city, while by 1850 solo performance shifted from primarily featuring a performer’s own compositions to featuring the works of other composers—a change which also brought a significant shift in critics’ perspectives. Although critics in the 1830s and 1840s found several ways to demonstrate the inferiority of foreign performers, they frequently referenced a «mechanical» playing style, comparing performers to technological devices. Critical discourse varied in its assertion of a mechanical style, at times referencing generalized «mechanical exaggerations» and «pointless feats of skill» to point out performers’ focus on technique and lack of musicality, while at other times invoking very specific types of mechanical objects, toys, and dolls. While each of these invocations of mechanism carried its own nuanced connotations, they were rarely intended to be positive portrayals of a performer, rather pointing toward his or her lack of originality—a key element of artistic genius, according to nineteenth-century philosophers, pedagogues, and critics. This article explores the issue of «mechanical» performance and its cultural contexts by discussing broader trends in philosophical discourse, fictional literature, and contemporary stage shows as cultural lenses through which we can understand contemporary audiences’ and critics’ perspectives on violin performance. Further, I discuss these trends through two case studies: that of Maria and Teresa Milanollo: young Italian sisters who performed in Paris throughout the 1830s and 40s, and Camillo Sivori: another Italian, but an adult male violinist who was consistently accused of mechanically imitating his predecessors.

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  • Mascagni’s media strategy: the case of Isabeau in Sonzogno’s publishing empire

Matteo Paoletti (University of Bologna) | matteo.paoletti5@unibo.it

Abstract
On 2nd June 1911 Mascagni’s Isabeau premiered in Buenos Aires, asserting itself as the first opera of an international renowned European living composer to debut in South America. The astonishing success of the premiere was carefully prepared by a large-scale press work brought on by Mascagni’s publisher, Renzo Sonzogno, in cooperation with the agent and impresario Walter Mocchi, a former journalist and leader of the socialist party who managed to build a transatlantic theatrical empire using his business acumen and political connections. The production of Isabeau also took on politic value, as it aimed to redefine the balance of theatrical ‘geopolitics’ across the Atlantic: just a few months later than the New York debut of Giacomo Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West (December 1910), the lavish world premiere of Isabeau imposed Argentina as a competitor to Europe and North America. Although Puccini’s masterpiece entered the repertoire and Mascagni’s work didn’t, both new titles competed in the imaginary, and Sonzogno’s media strategy to make of Isabeau a tremendous success represented an interesting intersection among the reasons of market, art and public exposure of the creative process. Mocchi and Sonzogno were perfectly aware of the power of advertisement and propaganda, and succeeded in creating huge expectations on both sides of the Atlantic: pictures of Mascagni composing at the piano were delivered to mainstream magazines in Europe and South America, while excerpts of handwritten music, exclusive interviews and gossipy remarks appeared in the press. To enforce the launch, a unique “event” was also put in place: just before the company had been boarding for Argentina, an exclusive preview of Isabeau was performed in Genoa for a selected audience of critics. The media campaign led to an authentic worship of Mascagni in South America, although once the press exposure faded the opera did not enter the repertoire and was quickly forgotten. The alternate faith of Isabeau allows us to enlighten the evolution of press communication as a strategy to face the crisis of the opera in the early 1900s.

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  • Imagen gráfica y musicología: el motivo iconográfico del Lohengrin wagneriano como fuente para el estudio de la sociedad española de cambio de siglo (1892-1908)

José Ignacio Suárez García (University of Oviedo) | suarezignacio@uniovi.es

Abstract
In the change from the 19th to the 20th century, Richard Wagner was in Madrid a personality who by far emerged the merely musical field to become a true celebrity. Inside his repertoire, Lohengrin was the most popular opera, so his character was used as a topic of humour, being the subject of jokes, parodies, caricatures and satire. However, humour published in the written media had a short life, since its daily consumption made it perishable, and therefore not very effective with the passing of time. As humour is intrinsic to the contemporaneity of daily life, in our explanation we have carried out the necessary contextualizations for a better understanding by the present-day reader. Three are the main platitudes found: Lohengrin as symbol of Wagner himself is firstly precursor of Symbolism and secondly enemy of France; finally, Lohengrin as personification of the Romanticism, is an unfashionable vision because it implies an unreal and idealized perspective on the life.

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  • «Un camino de vuelta a normas de validez universal». La recepción del serialismo en Madrid a través de la crítica musical

Daniel Moro Vallina (University of Oviedo) |danielmorovallina@gmail.com

Abstract
Uno de los críticos más comprometidos con la defensa de la nueva música, Enrique Franco, se refería en 1957 a la desorientación estética que vivían los compositores españoles respecto a las tendencias europeas —particularmente el dodecafonismo— como una «angustiosa incógnita». Por el contrario, en 1960 el también crítico y director del Aula de Música del Ateneo de Madrid Fernando Ruiz Coca señalaba la adscripción general de la música española a la técnica serial: un medio que, iniciado por Schoenberg, representaba en sus palabras «un camino de vuelta a normas de validez universal». En el espacio de pocos años observamos un cambio notable en la valoración de ambas corrientes: de considerar el dodecafonismo desde el punto de vista de su origen expresionista, estética alejada de la idiosincrasia española, se pasó a instrumentalizar el serialismo como una técnica desprovista de un contenido unívoco y adaptable a cada lenguaje particular. La rápida transición entre ambos lenguajes ha sido interpretada frecuentemente como una «quema de etapas», bajo la idea de recuperar un supuesto tiempo perdido por parte de los compositores de la Generación del 51. Un análisis del discurso de la crítica musical revela que la adopción de la técnica serial funcionó como una estrategia de legitimación de la joven música española en el contexto internacional, desde un enfoque nacionalista que insistía en el carácter ‘racial’ y distintivo de las obras seriales escritas en España. En este artículo profundizamos en los juicios de valor de la crítica ante la recepción del dodecafonismo y el serialismo, atendiendo al ámbito de Madrid durante el cambio de década (1950-1960) y a medios como las revistas Música, Índice, Ateneo, La Estafeta Literaria o Acento Cultural y periódicos como ABC y Arriba. Una selección de escritos mostrará que tanto defensores como detractores de ambas tendencias emplearon con frecuencia los mismos tópicos en sus opiniones: primero desde un enfoque contenidista que ponía el acento en la dimensión espiritual o religiosa de las obras, y más tarde subrayando la separación de la técnica respecto a la estética expresionista de origen.

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  • The press as an agent of the formation and change of cultural patterns

Karsten Mackersen (Gießen University) | Karsten.Mackensen@musik.uni-giessen.de

Abstract
The paper proposes a theoretical model for the description and analysis of the interplay between musical practices and discourses as mirrored in journalism, based on the concept of cultural patterns. This concept was developed by recent German cultural theory, particularly by German studies specialist Daniel Fulda. The attendance of opera performances can be understood as such a cultural pattern of modern culture. The author carried out a qualitative case study, which compares reviews of two important premieres of the 20th century, viz. those of Paul Hindemith’s «Cardillac» from the year 1926 and of Helmut Lachenmann’s «Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern» from 1997. Its focus is on the possible shift in the basic categories grounding the understanding of and the communicative coping with opera. Three categories – legitimacy, distinction, and subjectivity – were considered constitutive for the argumentation and contents of the reviews and could thus be interpreted as significant parts of the assumed cultural pattern. The first category encompasses passages in the reviews connected with legitimacy in the sense of a justification in tradition and in socially distinctive, specialized knowledge. The second one comprises socially distinctive features of the cultural pattern such as language. The third one concerns subjective statements. In summary, it can be said that the cultural pattern as represented in the articles proves overall a high consistency between the 1920s and the 1990s, although some significant changes can be observed as well. The study confirms the reviews’ importance as essential parts of the cultural pattern, for its formation, and for its change.

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