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Picture of Giacomo Meyerbeer Choral Music and Songs

Giacomo Meyerbeer Choral Music and Songs

Author(s): Robert Ignatius Letellier

Book Description

This second volume of Meyerbeer’s non-operatic work is devoted to his secular choral writing for male voices, solo songs with chorus, and later songs with instrumental obbligato and local colour.

Choral writing—so much part of the operatic tradition, also germane to religious music, and integral to the public music of celebration—is fundamental to the next genre Meyerbeer wrote for, the part-song, a typical German tradition. Meyerbeer’s part-songs for male chorus, most of which were provided for the Liedertafel Friends of the Berlin Singakademie, use the age-old themes of unity, friendship, patriotism, homeland, hunting: Bundeslied (1835), Freundschaft (1842), Dem Vaterlande (1842), and Die lustigen Jägersleut (1842). This set of four illustrates the composer’s harmonic richness, his imaginative use of all the variants of vocal timbre and tessitura, in part-writing, textured unison and homophony.

Rather different were two later numbers, Der Wanderer und die Geister an Beethovens Grabe (1845), and Das Lied vom blinden Hessen (1862). The first is a personal tribute to the memory of Beethoven, for bass solo and chorus, that uses the Platonic imagery of the music of the spheres as the transcendent ideal of beauty. The late Song of the Blind Hessian, requiring a tenor soloist and chorus, is a deeply felt lament in which the protagonist’s blindness becomes the metaphor for a series of variations on loneliness, exile and loss, and eventually a correlative of disenfranchisement and yearning for freedom—political and spiritual. In both songs the chorus has a more dramatic role than in the part-songs, reflecting on the situation presented in the soloist’s manifesto, sometimes serene and supporting, at others adding to the sense of anguish and aspiration.

Throughout his career Meyerbeer wrote songs. These reflected the circumstances of his life, the various cultural milieux he moved in—particularly, of course, the German, Italian and French worlds. The majority of Meyerbeer’s songs were composed between 1828 and 1860, in tandem with his illustrious operatic career and socially prestigious musical posts in Berlin. Meyerbeer’s songs in whatever genre show the influence of the Lied, especially in his subtle use of the piano parts. Unique among Meyerbeer’s songs are two written with instrumental obbligatos: “Hier oben” (Des Schäfers Lied or Hirtenlied) (Ludwig Rellstab) (1842) (for tenor, clarinet and piano, published in Paris in 1857), and “Près de toi” (“Neben Dir”) (Gustav Roger, translated by the poet and historian Joseph Duesberg) (1857) (for tenor with violoncello and piano, published in Paris in the same year). Meyerbeer adapted a strong sense of local colour in two songs composed in the 1850s: the Spanish bolero in the mélodie written for the incidental music to Aylic-Langlé’s play Murillo (Ballade dans la comédie Murillo, ou Le Peintre mendiant un modèle) (Paris, 1853); and the Italian barcarole in the canzonetta “A Venezia” (Pietro Beltrame) (1856) [Paris: Brandus, 1856; Cologne: Schloss, n.d.].

Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-2271-8
ISBN-10: 1-4438-2271-X
Date of Publication: 01/09/2010
Pages / Size: 180 / A4 portrait
Price: £44.99
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Biography

Robert Ignatius Letellier has specialized in the music and literature of the Romantic Period. He has studied the work of Giacomo Meyerbeer (a four-volume English edition of his diaries, a collection of critical and biographical studies, a guide to research, two readings of the operas, as well as compiling and introducing editions of the complete libretti and non-operatic texts, and a selection of manuscripts facsimiles). He has also written on the ballets of Ludwig Minkus and compiled a series of scores on the Romantic Ballet.