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The Glass Cabinet

An essay about the place of the Hungarian crown

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Sándor Radnóti

Summary

Emergence of a scientific need for museum display. Emergence of the political need for museum display. Siting and visibility of the Hungarian crown jewels. Invisibility and visible theology of the regalia. Treasure turned work of art. Profanation of relics. Profanation of crown jewels. The Schatzkammer in Vienna. The membership of the holy crown and the holy crown. Musealization of the crown. “Re-sacralization”of the crown. Present-day status of the crown. Sacrality and museality

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Mihály Nádor’s and Jenő Faragó’s three-act operetta entitled Offenbach was one of the biggest theater successes in Budapest in the period following World War I. The piece, whose first performance took place at the Király Theater in 1920, was also premiered in Vienna, Prague, Munich and in different adaptations in Berlin and New York. It represents a popular type of operetta of the era, whose main protagonists are nineteenth-century composers, and whose music was partly or entirely compiled of melodies taken from the musicians in question. In my study, I examine the extant musical and textual sources of the piece partly belonging to the composer’s estate preserved at the Music Department of the Széchényi National Library. I interpret Nádor’s work as a document of the Budapest Offenbach reception, and I reveal some intriguing differences between the Budapest and Vienna versions of the piece. I also demonstrate that the operetta was in all likelihood an imitation of Henrich Berté’s similar piece, Das Dreimäderlhaus, which was performed in every Budapest operetta theater between 1916 and 1924. At the same time, however, a successful new production of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène was likewise an important antecedent for Nádor’s operetta.

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This paper explores Arnold Schoenberg’s curious ambivalence towards Haydn. Schoenberg recognized Haydn as an important figure in the German serious music tradition, but never closely examined or clearly articulated Haydn’s influence and import on his own musical style and ethos, as he did with many other major composers. This paper argues that Schoenberg failed to explicitly recognize Haydn as a major influence because he saw Haydn as he saw himself, namely as a somewhat ungainly, paradoxical figure, with one foot in the past and one in the future. In his voluminous writings on music, Haydn is mentioned by Schoenberg far less frequently than Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven, and his music appears rarely as examples in Schoenberg’s theoretical texts. When Schoenberg does talk about Haydn’s music, he invokes — with tacit negativity — its accessibility, counterpoising it with more recondite music, such as Beethoven’s, or his own. On the other hand, Schoenberg also praises Haydn for his complex, irregular phrasing and harmonic exploration. Haydn thus appears in Schoenberg’s writings as a figure invested with ambivalence: a key member of the First Viennese triumvirate, but at the same time he is curiously phantasmal, and is accorded a peripheral place in Schoenberg’s version of the canon and his own musical genealogy.

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In most opera manuals Heinrich A. Marschner receives but common-place epitheta like German composer — intermediary between Weber and Wagner — advocate of a national opera. To which extend does this point of view originate in consciously launched and passed-on notions? Regarding the opera Hans Heiling (1833), Marschner’s history of reception will be examined exemplarily.

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By the middle of the 1960s, only a couple of years after his defection from Hungary to Austria and West Germany, Ligeti had already achieved canonical status in Western circles of contemporary music, even if more in German speaking countries than in English speaking ones. As a by-product of this extremely quick process, Ligeti was identified with the new musical language of ‚Klangkomposition‘ (sound-mass music) and micropolyphonic texture, an identification that has stuck with him since — the works written from 1958 to 1967, and Atmosphères in particular, remain by far his best known and most frequently cited compositions. If canonization in itself must be regarded to a certain degree as desirable to any composer, in Ligeti’s case there were unwanted effects of this development. Although the composer himself contributed to it by his writings, his early identification as a composer of sound masses not only narrowed the reception of his oeuvre but affected his later self-image as a composer, too.

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Writings on the socio-cultural complexities of Mahler’s identity and his music in context vary in relation to four basic motifs: his Jewishness; his Germanness; the partly Slav environment of his early years; and his relationship to the Austro-Hungar-ian Dual Monarchy. Studies combine these elements, or privilege one above another. It may help to rethink this subject if we consider that his self-awareness formed amid a changing social environment; if his personal identity will be studied in the context of the identity history of his family; and through scrutinizing the decisive socializing role of the localities in which he lived. These conclusions can reveal the unparalleled mobility of his career in a rapidly-transforming context. Late nineteenth-century Central European societies drew at once on the “past” (post-feudal, pre-modern attitudes and practices), “present” (constitutionalism based on equal civilian rights, and nationalism), and “future” (populist and racist ideologies questioning the enlightened, liberal consensus). All three impacted not only Mahler’s identity, but his image: how the surrounding society perceived him. These approaches also facilitate critical readings of the contemporaneous attempts to embed Mahler’s music in national, regional, and ethno-cultural contexts. This paper examines the reception of the third movement of Symphony No. 1 as a case study, exploring how Mahler’s construed images were reflected in different interpretations of this music.

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Abstract

In this study, I examine a hitherto completely unknown subject: the Hungarian reception of Manuel de Falla's ballet pantomime, El sombrero de tres picos (The three-cornered hat). As I point out, the story of the piece began well before Falla composed his music: Alarcón's novel was published in a Hungarian translation just two decades after the Spanish original. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Budapest Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház) and Municipal Theatre (Városi Színház) developed intensive opera, theatre, and ballet seasons, in association with the main European capitals during the first decades of the twentieth century. De Falla's ballet was premiered in Budapest in 1927 by Diaghilev's Russian Ballet, in the Municipal Theatre under the Hungarian title A háromszögletű kalap. The piece had such success that it had to be repeated three times. What is more, a Hungarian production was premiered in the Budapest Opera House one year later and this production continued until 1963, delivering a total of 75 performances. The sources (among others the handwritten performing scores) of this latter production preserved in the National Széchényi Library and in the Archives of the Hungarian State Opera House reveal an intense work of choreographic adaptation, along with careful design of staging, costumes, lightning, and scenery effects, all accomplished by great international personalities to make this very Spanish ballet understandable to the Magyar audience. Falla's work also found a significant support in the press, highlighting both the plot's universality and the expressiveness of his music, which had made it a Hungarian success.

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Abstract

During the 1960s, the operatic works of Slovak composer Ján Cikker were among the most often performed contemporary operas in Europe, especially in the two German states. The reasons of this success are as interesting as the reasons of the decline that occurred during the 1970s. In both cases, the intensity of the publisher Bärenreiter's support and marketing played an important role, as did the change of the audience's taste which brought a general decrease in the popularity of the post-war Literaturoper in the tradition of Richard Strauss, the music of which was moderately modern and did not fulfill (as it was not meant to fulfill) the requirements of New Music. The reception of Cikker's work, its aesthetic background, and its musical and dramatic solutions are exemplified within his chef d'oeuvre, the opera Vzkriesenie (Resurrection, 1962), based on Tolstoy's novel, which is highly consistent in its dramaturgy thanks to Fritz Oeser, the libretto's silent co-author.

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In my study, I show how three different figures of the interwar Hungary saw Beethoven. The first of them, Dénes Bartha (1908–1993), was a musicologist and became an international specialist of Viennese Classicism. In the context of contemporary Hungarian literature, his first Beethoven monograph (1939) represents an emphatically anti-Romantic attitude. In the second part, I examine the popular image of the composer, on the basis of the planned operetta Beethoven (1929–1931) by Zsolt Harsányi, an author of popular biographical novels, and Mihály Nádor (1882–1944), a successful operetta composer. This piece follows the example of Das Dreimäderlhaus, and its music was compiled from Beethoven’s melodies by Nádor. In the third part I examine an essay about Beethoven by an important musician of the period, Ernst von Dohnányi (1877–1960), who was, according to Bartók, a leading Beethoven performer of his age. Although the text of his “Romanticism in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas” was written during his émigré years (draft: 1948, revision: 1955), it summarizes well what the leading figure of the interwar Budapest musical life might have thought about Beethoven’s music.

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Clara Schumann gave her first Pest concerts in February 1856. A survey of the enthusiastic reviews reveals that she was received as the foremost representative of “classic art,” whose performances gave the Hungarian public—until then mostly admiring exhibitionist virtuosos—an entirely new idea about what music was capable of. The moral superiority of Clara seemed also confirmed by her generous donation to the future National Conservatory, which was initially commented on in the most flattering terms in the press. In early March, however, the Pester Lloyd aired that the generous donation may not have been absolutely voluntary, an anonymous go-between having forcefully talked the pianist into financially supporting the institution. Induced by the recent discovery of Clara Schumann’s original deed of foundation (acquired in July 2011 by the Music Collection of the National Széchényi Library) this article seeks to reconstruct the story in some detail by rehearsing the press debate surrounding the donation, exploring the financial situation of the Music Society of Pest-Buda in the 1850s, scrutinizing the minutes of its board meetings, as well as comparing Clara Schumann’s contribution with those given by other traveling musicians.

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