The Byron Journal

Examples of Byron's Impact on 19th Century German and Austrian Music

The Byron Journal (1987), 15, (1), 38–54.


Examples of Byron's Impact on 19th Century German and Austrian Music By WALTER BERNHART A slightly enlarged version ofa lecture presented (with musical illustrations) to the Twelfth International Byron Seminar held at Haifa. Israel. in August 1985. My subject is the reflection of some of Byron's works in 19th century German and Austrian music, and I will concentrate on settings of Hebrew Melodies, as it is from that collection oflyrics that German composers most frequently chose their texts. We can observe that Byron's impact on musicians has attracted relatively little attention from critics and literary historians despite the wealth of studies that have devoted themselves to the phenomenon of European Byronism, most notably Hoffmeister's recent Darmstadt publication', and all the Weddigens, Flaischlens, Ackermanns and Ochsenbeins of earlier days-, These studies are always primarily concerned with Byron's literary influence and only marginally include music in their considerations', I see two main reasons for this situation, one being well-justified reluctance to write about music if one is a literary critic and not a musicologist; the other - maybe even more crucially - the uncertainty about the relevance of such studies. As to the first I am no musicologist myself, although I have had an academic musical training, but I strongly believe in comparative studies. As to the second, I would like to leave the answer to the end of this paper. I will try to subdivide what I have to say into three sections. In the first I will look at seven different settings of one individual poem from Hebrew Melodies; this will also include a short report on a seminar session held at Graz University, which was devoted to this comparative criticism. The poem is "Sun of the Sleepless", which in the 19th century was the most popular with German and Austrian composers - in con- 38

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Author details

Bernhart, Walter