The limits of the Lied: Brahms’s Magelone-Romanzen Op. 33

Loges, N. (2014) The limits of the Lied: Brahms’s Magelone-Romanzen Op. 33. In: Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall: Between Private and Public Performance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 300-323. ISBN 9781107042704 (hardback) 9781108458085 (paperback) 9781316056585 (e-book)


Johannes Brahms was a consummate professional musician, a successful pianist, conductor, music director, editor and composer. Yet he also faithfully championed the world of private music-making, creating many works and arrangements for enjoyment in the home by amateurs. This collection explores Brahms' public and private musical identities from various angles: the original works he wrote with amateurs in mind; his approach to creating piano arrangements of not only his own, but also other composers' works; his relationships with his arrangers; the deeper symbolism and lasting legacy of private music-making in his day; and a hitherto unpublished memoir which evokes his Viennese social world. Using Brahms as their focus point, the contributors trace the overlapping worlds of public and private music-making in the nineteenth century, discussing the boundaries between the composer's professional identity and his lifelong engagement with amateur music-making. Within Brahms’s circle, there are many accounts of performances of instrumental chamber works in private homes, and such memories were often captured because they involved exceptionally able, often professional, performers. The banker and amateur pianist Rudolf von der Leyen (1851– 1910) recalled with pride that when Brahms visited him in Krefeld during the 1880s, the players were of such a high standard that ‘the first time Brahms played in our home (I think he played his A-major Quartet), after the first movement, he said in astonishment: “Heavens, one really has to concentrate and play well here.” Many such performances were also significant events in the hosts’ social calendars. In contrast, the private performance of song presented a more diverse picture and is less frequently accorded comparable significance. Singing was far less consistently professionalised and embraced an enormous variety of styles, technical demands and aesthetic meanings, within forms ranging froma single unaccompanied line to many pages. For a song composer as prolific as Brahms, this raises a number of questions: how did he negotiate this range? What technical and aesthetic expectations might he have held, both inside and outside his circle? And how might he have attempted to reconcile those considerations with the transition of the lied from home to concert hall, as exemplified by the career of his friend and colleague, the baritone Julius Stockhausen? In this chapter (Chapter 12), these issues are explored firstly in general terms, and then through the specific case of the Magelone-Romanzen Op. 33.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item