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Romanticism: Literature, Music and Art
Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
Hector Berlioz was a French composer of the Romantic period whose works are known for their dramatic intensity and elaborate instrumentation. His debut work Symphonie fantastique, a psychedelic tour de force inspired in part by the composer's own experiments with opium, remains among the most popular of his compositions and is regarded as an iconic piece of early Romanticism. Berlioz also wrote prolifically, publishing a number of theoretical disquisitions on musical topics throughout his life. His Treatise on Instrumentation proved to be enormously influential, forever altering the way people conceived of the orchestra. His fluid and assured hand can be seen in this undated autographed manuscript of a "Salut Matinal," or "Salute to Morning." The piece is a musical joke, written "for the album of Mr. Mendes, white man of Europe." Berlioz signs the manuscript as "Kapellmeister of Aimata Pomare IV, Queen of Tahiti, Eimeo, Huahine, Raiatea, Borabora, Tubuai-Nanu and other islands." Berlioz had been in correspondence with the queen, and referred to himself in letters as her "humble tititeu-teu [servant]." The lyrics are in the language of New Caledonia, a French colonial collectivity in the southwest Pacific. Leon Robbin Collection.
Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867)
Vingt-cinq Poèmes des Fleurs du Mal. Illustrations by Rodin
Paris: Éditions L. C. L., 1968
Rare Books Collection
Les Fleurs du Mal, a collection of poetry by French poet Charles Baudelaire, is accompanied in this edition by reproductions of paintings by artist Auguste Rodin. Les Fleurs du Mal faced heavy censorship and bans on some of its material due to its prevalent themes of decadence and hedonism. Les Fleurs du Mal was published in three editions, 1857, 1861, and posthumously in 1868. An intermediate collection of poems censored in France titled Les Épaves (the scraps) was released in Belgium in 1866. The censorship the French government placed on Les Épaves was not removed until 1949.
The poem shown here reflects the death of an artist. Baudelaire was deeply moved by music, too. He saw a performance of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser in 1861. Baudelaire looked to Wagner's works as an ideal for the future of art. Baudelaire wrote his poem "Correspondences" in reaction to Wagner's opera.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778)
Carceri, from the Opere (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1836–1839)
Facsimile, reduced; original in the University Art Collection
On display here is an engraving from Piranesi's Carceri. In this series of engravings Piranesi depicts huge prisons filled with monumental machinery. Much of Romantic art, literature and music depicted thoughts of demented and eerie locations; the Carceri are no exception. Men in chains laboring over vast machines can perhaps be viewed as a metaphor demonstrating the insignificance of the individual's life. In all these prison scenes, seemingly irrelevant stair cases ascend and descend out of view. This emphasizes the imagination, an important aspect of romanticism, since it often deals with the surreal.
Piranesi's Carceri influenced numerous artists, writers and musicians in the nineteenth century. Thomas De Quincey alluded to these images in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which later served as the literary foundation for Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
Gustave Doré (1832–1883)
Illustration to Dante Alighieri, The Vision of Hell [Inferno], translated by Rev. Henry Francis Cary [n.d., 1880s?]
Rare Books Collection
Gustave Doré embodies the Romantic ideals of the bizarre and grotesque. Doré's works at this time reflected the rising popularity of Romantic literature and music. His beautiful illustrations, primarily through the mediums of wood and steel engraving, have accompanied books as diverse as the Bible and Don Quixote. By the 1860's, Doré was at the height of his career and earned a major exhibition in London, which eventually evolved into the Doré Gallery. He was once such a prolific illustrator that he hired 40 blockcutters to help edit his work. Dante's "Inferno," which exemplifies the creative and often horrific images that Doré would typically embrace as part Dante's journey into Hell, is full of allegorical images of Dante and Virgil exploring the strange and powerful landscapes of hell. Although often criticized for using vulgar images and being dramatic, Doré was also renowned for his amazing technical abilities as well as his endless obsession with life and death, as depicted in this particular image of Dante and Virgil positioned at the edge of an abyss while watching a storm of sinners whirling. The contrast between the childlike fear on Dante's face and the eternal bleakness of hell is especially typical of Doré's thematic elements of good and evil. His mastery and worldly themes make his works timeless. The detailed illustrations for "Inferno" explain why Doré revolutionized the world of book illustrations.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
25 March 1897
Camille Saint-Saëns was an eminent French composer and organist who co-founded the Societé Nationale de Musique in Paris. He was a champion of the music of Liszt, Berlioz and Wagner—all his close friends—at a time when Brahms and Verdi were the norm. Saint-Saëns helped shape the trajectory of French music by expanding the repertoire of young music students, such as the composer Gabriel Fauré. Acclaimed as a musical prodigy by the age of five, he became the organist in residence at the Church of Saint-Mérri in Paris.
Saint-Saën's choral melody of the liturgical verse, "Ave Verum," shown here, was composed in 1857 for the women's choir of the Church of Saint-Mérri. A far cry from some of his later works, such as Danse Macabre, this early sacred piece reflects his compositional competence, especially at the young age of twenty-two. This piece was created for horn (cornet), organ, and women's voices (altos and sopranos). Saint-Saëns notes at the bottom of the score "Mars 1857, pour Saint-Méry," indicating that he created this piece in March, shortly before he became the organist at the celebrated Église de la Madeleine de Paris. Leon Robbin Collection.
Franz Liszt (1811–1886)
This copyist's manuscript is signed and inscribed by the composer to one of his most devoted students, Fräulein Lina Schmalhausen, on the first page. It is the final working draft of the Mephisto Polka, a companion piece to the four virtuosic piano solos known as The Mephisto Waltzes. The Mephisto Waltzes were based on the character of Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust. In the legend, Faust sells his soul to Mephistopheles, the devil, in exchange for unlimited knowledge. Although the piece is not dated, it is determined to be 1883, about the time that the third Mephisto Waltz was written. The 18 pages of this manuscript contain numerous revisions in Liszt's handwriting indicating the addition of optional passages. The red inscriptions on these pages denote Liszt's writing and corrections. These markings were used to indicate changes in the piece for Liszt's copyist. This piece was a special gift for a young student as a memento of studying with Liszt. Leon Robbin Collection.
Ossian [James McPherson (1736–1796)]
Temora (London: T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt, 1763)
Rare Books Collection
In the 1760s, Scotsman James Macpherson began publishing collections of poetry that he claimed were translations of poems written by an ancient bard called Ossian about his father, a third-century king named Fingal. Ossian, whose knowledge "did not extend to Greek and Roman literature," quickly became popular, especially in northern Europe, as a Scotch-Irish counter to Homer, Virgil and other authors from classical antiquity. The poems inspired Romantic writers, artists and musicians and led to the creation of many works of art based on Ossian's epics.
The authenticity of Ossian, however, was called into question, and investigations that dragged into the nineteenth century proved that while Macpherson's "translations" may have had some roots in Scottish and Irish songs and legends, there was no ancient manuscript written by Ossian and a fair amount of the material contained within the poetry was the product of Macpherson's own imagination. The authenticity of the poems was of little concern to European readers in the nineteenth century. Ossian represented the "Homer of the North" and served as a source of inspiration for countless artists, writers and musicians. Napoleon claimed to have carried a copy of Ossian's poems into battle. Among the Romantic musicians who wrote compositions inspired by Ossian were Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert, Niels W. Gade and Johannes Brahms.
Barry Moser (1940-)
Illustration to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (West Hatfield, Mass.: Pennyroyal Press, 1984)
Rare Books Collection
Within the context of the romantic movement, nothing exhibits the heightened emotional aesthetic more than Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, a cornerstone of 19th century literature. Completed in 1818, this novel provided a stark contrast to the recent Industrial Revolution and fueled the flames of the Romantic Movement. In this edition, romanticism emerges in both Shelley's original, unblemished prose along with Barry Moser's striking contemporary wood engravings. Here, Moser's modern works reveal his inspiration from Gustave Doré, a wood and steel engraver from the 19th century. Doré's numerous renowned cuts capture the Romantic quality that Moser has internalized and reproduced so well in this Frankenstein. His graphic images, such as this one on page 48, illustrate partial body parts and decaying, emaciated faces. Moser's elaborate and realistic imagery, his limited use of color, and his choice of such austere wood engravings provide stark and evocative illustrations to complement the horror Mary Shelley has penned. This particular version is a break from the first illustrated editions of the 1930s, such as Lynd Ward's wood engravings, in that it departs from caricature to capture the morose and emotional tale, likening the story to a more modern tale and presenting images that are more realistic, graver, than previous editions.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
"Neueste Grose Symphonie" [Ninth Symphony]
Copyist's manuscript of the first two movements, 1825
Anton Gloetzner Collection
Ludwig van Beethoven was the key transitional composer from the classical period to the romantic era and one of the driving forces of European romanticism in music. Beethoven embodied the tortured genius now commonly associated with artists of the period. Isolated from society by his deafness, he nonetheless continued to compose large-scale works that changed the course of music history. Beethoven's most renowned work, his Symphony No. 9, is shown here in a hand-written copy made in 1825, a year before it was published. The copy contains the first two movements of the symphony. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 was instrumental in the rise of program music, a key genre of the Romantic era. The addition of a chorus in the fourth movement was revolutionary for its time, and the philosophical themes evoked in the text (Schiller's "Ode to Joy") set the stage for later composers. Liszt looked to the symphony as a model for his tone poems and made a popular piano transcription of the piece; Wagner saw the symphony as a precedent to his own revisions of opera; and Brahms admittedly imitated the "Ode to Joy" chorus in his first symphony. Beethoven conducted the Symphony's premier in Vienna on May 7, 1824.
Curated by students in MUSIC 333, Romanticism and Modernism