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The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach

  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107004283


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About the Authors
  • Using novels and autobiographies from Bach's Germany, Stephen Rose suggests new ways of interpreting the lives and social status of musicians. This study focuses on satirical novels written by musicians that describe the lives of performers and composers, as well as the autobiographies of Bach's contemporaries. These narratives represent musicians variously as picaresque outcasts, honourable craft-workers, foolish bunglers and respected virtuosos. They probe the lives of musicians considered taboo or aberrant in the period, such as street entertainers and Italian castratos. The novels and autobiographies also reveal two major debates that shaped the mindset and social identity of musicians: was music a sensual or rational craft, and should musicians integrate within society or be regarded as outsiders? Quoting from an array of little-known novels, this book shows how an interdisciplinary approach can transform our understanding of Bach and his contemporaries.

    • Exposes the debates shaping the social status of musicians in Bach's Germany, helping readers to understand why musicians were so controversial in the period
    • Illuminates the lives of low-status musicians such as travelling fiddlers, giving readers a more rounded picture of musical life at this time
    • Includes many translated excerpts from novels and autobiographies, introducing readers to these colourful, gripping and previously inaccessible texts about musicians' lives
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The decades around 1700 saw the publication of a clutch of fictional literature by German writers about music and musicians, a body of works largely overlooked by musicologists so far. Stephen Rose's book … draws attention to this group of sources, in order to shed new light on musical life in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Germany. His study investigates literary works by Johann Beer, Johann Kuhnau, Wolfgang Caspar Printz and Daniel Speer, all of which introduce musical characters as their main protagonists. Through their entertaining, scandalous or moralistic narratives, these novels reflect and engage with a number of prominent contemporary debates: about the role of musicians in society, about music's affective powers and dangers, or about its embattled position between the forces of sense and reason. Rose's detailed exposition of these highly instructive materials raises a host of intriguing questions that invite further thought, research and discussion.' Early Music

    '… a useful and original summary of the satirical novels circulating in the period … The selection is well made and the translations well done: sound professional work on a defined, under familiar and often surprisingly funny genre … Alert research and generous quotation remind one of many a musician's biography of the time and thus creates a useful context for them …' Peter Williams, The Musical Times

    'Stephen Rose has taken it upon himself in this extraordinary book to ponder and report on some two dozen (for most modern tastes unreadable) German novels from the seventeenth century, works that describe, in often hilarious, often poignant detail, the musician's life and world at the time. He does this in the service of a larger purpose … Rose maintains early on that 'to grasp how the lives of musicians such as Bach were embedded in the culture and society of their time, a broader range of texts must be investigated'; namely, the literary traditions he then diligently surveys. Rose suggests that many Bach anecdotes, and even some of Bach's own statements, reflect those traditions. His conjectures are refreshingly bold and provocative and, often enough, plausible … This remarkable volume is replete with fascinating information and thought-provoking ideas.' Robert L. Marshall, Early Music America

    'The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach is an important contribution to scholarship on music and musicians in the German Baroque. It is well written, providing fascinating reading for specialists and general readers alike. While arguing for the strong connections between music and storytelling in seventeenth-century Germany, Rose himself tells a story that is well worth reading.' Mark A. Peters, Bach

    'In this eye-opening study of German prose fiction written between 1660 and 1710, Stephen Rose has unveiled for us a richly detailed, complicated and above all unfamiliar portrait of the musician around the turn of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. The texts he explicates include novels, stories and treatises by a cluster of musician-writers … his skill in decoding and contextualizing [these texts] is consistently impressive … All scholars of Europe and its musical traditions, especially of course of the German ones, will find riches aplenty in this erudite, elegant and fascinating book.' Celia Applegate, Eighteenth-Century Music

    '… a well-presented, lively account of the social position of music and musicians in the later seventeenth century.' Modern Language Review

    'Rose uncovers the frequently subversive and always compelling rhetorical energy of storytelling by and about German musicians, making their texts accessible and appealing … [He] has made these virtually forgotten novels engaging and instructive. His central questions should influence scholarship on aesthetics in general and on the relationship between sound and text in particular. Perhaps most tellingly, the reader finishes this well-written volume with the strong desire to read the novels Rose discusses.' German Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107004283
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 244 x 170 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.66kg
    • contains: 6 b/w illus. 4 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Literary contexts: the German Baroque novel
    2. The musician as picaresque outcast
    3. The musician as honourable craftsman
    4. Musical fools versus virtuosos
    5. From harmony to discord
    6. The first German autobiographies of musicians

  • Author

    Stephen Rose, Royal Holloway, University of London
    Stephen Rose is Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research explores German music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in its social, material and performing contexts. He has contributed to The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Music (2005), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music (2009) and An Introduction to Music Studies (2008), all published by Cambridge University Press. His articles and reviews have appeared in many publications including Early Music, for which he is also Reviews Editor, and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. He is active as an organist and harpsichordist.

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