Tag Archives: Maria Malibran

María Malibrán in public and private

Although 19th-century Parisian salon music was usually described in feminine terms (not including genius), the roles it played in social and political discourse preclude its disparagement as trivial; the genre should be approached as a social category rather than a formal one. The contrast between María Malibrán’s unconventional public life and her semi-private works is best understood in this context.

Malibrán published four song anthologies as well as many individual songs, which were not, however, composed to show off her virtuosity. These works illuminate how in salon music the authorship of singer and composer recedes behind an unspecific poetic I. Malibrán’s true voice is situated between her virtuosity as singer and her comparatively restrained compositions.

This according to “Voiceless songs: Maria Malibran as composer” by Mary Ann Smart, an essay included in Authorschaft—Genie—Geschlecht: Musikalische Schaffensprozesse von der Frühen Neuzeit bis zur Gegenwart (Köln: Böhlau, 2013, pp. 137–58).

Today is Malibrán’s 210th birthday! Below, her L’Écossais.

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Filed under Performers, Romantic era

Hans Christian Andersen, music critic

As many people know, Hans Christian Andersen, whose children’s stories have proven to be his most widespread source of fame, was the most prominent Danish author of the nineteenth century. As fewer people know, he enjoyed a brief career as an opera singer and dancer at Det Kongelige Teater in Copenhagen, and in later years he went on to produce opera libretti for the Danish and German stage. He made 30 major European tours, and on each of these trips he regularly attended opera and concert performances, recording his impressions in a series of travel diaries; a well-informed listener,  his reflections comprise valuable sources for the study of music reception during this period.

Over the course of his life Andersen embraced and later rejected performers such as Liszt, Maria Malibran, and Ole Bull, and his interest in opera and instrumental music underwent a series of dramatic transformations. In his final years he promoted figures as disparate as Wagner and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, while strongly objecting to Brahms. Although these changes in taste might be interpreted as indiscriminate, such shifts in opinion were not contradictory—rather, they were quite logical given the social and cultural climate.

This according to “Music history as reflected in the works of Hans Christian Andersen” by Anna Harwell Celenza, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

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Filed under Literature, Reception, Romantic era