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Danish Yearbook of Musicology, volume 41 · 2017

Section 1 · Articles (Volume 41:1)

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen,
Music, competition and the Art de seconde rhétorique: The youthful chansons of Gilles Mureau and Philippe Basiron, pp. 3–31

The cultivation of poetry in fixed forms, known as the Art de seconde rhétorique, was important to the leading classes of society in fifteenth-century France. Fluency in composing poems and in conversing on literary subjects was desirable as means to support social advance and recognition – not least among the ambitious strata of clerks, lawyers and merchants. This study wants to raise the question whether a similar desire to participate in the greater cultural field were part of the driving forces behind the composing of polyphonic chansons. The question is reviewed by examining the few preserved chansons from around 1470 by two composers who made their entire careers in the service of the church as singers and choirmasters. Gilles Mureau (c.1442–1512) was around 1470 well established in a life-long career at the Chartres cathedral, while the slightly younger Philippe Basiron (c.1448–1491) already had reached the pinnacle of his career as magister puerum of the Sainte Chappelle in Bourges, a position he apparently left in 1474.

Both musicians presumably composed chansons in their youth only, in their twenties, and they demonstrate an acute awareness of the contemporary poetic scene. We can be quite sure that Mureau wrote his own texts and used the whole range of artful poetic skills, and when composing he had the performances by the choirboys in mind. Basiron reacted in his production to this sort of songs, among them one of Mureau’s, by borrowing and rewriting poetry and by transforming musical ideas into his own creations.

Christopher Tarrant,
Breakthrough and Collapse in Carl Nielsen’s Sinfonia semplice, pp. 32-49

The tension between Carl Nielsen’s status as a modernist and his engagement with symphonic form has been a point of sustained scholarly interest in recent years. His Sinfonia semplice (1925) has posed some of the most searching questions for musicologists, formal as well as hermeneutic. Although the work’s title alludes to its straightforwardly conventional layout in four movements and its sometimes childlike thematic materials, the events that occur in the course of the symphony, formal, tonal, and narrative, are far from simple. This article offers a reading of the Sinfonia semplice which draws on Adorno’s categories of ‘breakthrough’ and ‘collapse’, Sonata Theory, and Northrop Frye’s theory of narrative. The denial of straightforwardly heroic or tragic narrative trajectories, I argue, offers further insight into the contribution to interwar modernism that can be found in late Nielsen.

Marie-Louise Zervides,
Carl Nielsen, Saul and David and the Symbolist Movement: Cultural-Historical Perspectives, pp. 50–72

This article explores the position of the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) and his first opera Saul and David (1898-1901) in the European symbolist movement of the 1890s. Through a study of Nielsen's published letters and diary entries from the period, it is possible to present the composer's wide interest in art and engagement with artists – both in Denmark and on his extensive European travels – at a time when symbolism was dominating the modern art scene. Furthermore, one can trace artistic strategies in Nielsen's early work – in this case, the opera Saul and David – that correspond to different ideas of symbolism. This includes combining archaic materials with contemporary techniques, as well as creating a subjective expression through mood and simplified, non-naturalistic styles.

Paolo Muntoni
Nielsen’s Saul and David and Italian opera, pp. 73–100

In this essay, I will focus on the music cultural context in which Carl Nielsen’s Saul and David (1899–1901) was composed, as Nielsen approached opera for the first time. This will cast new light on his independence and originality, but also offer the possibility for some seemingly unlikely comparisons, revealing that the work is more tightly integrated with Nielsen’s broader European musical experience than has previously seemed – especially as an alternative to naturalism. I will therefore consider the Italian context before, during and after the rise of verismo, focusing particularly on the anti-naturalism debate, to which Saul and David also belongs. Nielsen’s work follows a path that parallels the shift from the so-called noir dramas of the 1880s to the work of Ildebrando Pizzetti, via the almost completely unknown operas of Antonio Smareglia. Unusual as it may be, I believe that this comparison will support the idea of a composer who, while working in the genre of musical drama, was in constant dialogue with his European contemporaries.

Section 2 · Reviews (Volume 41:2)

Märta Ramsten, Kungl. Musikaliska akademien och folkmusiken. En musiketnologisk undersökning. Möklinta, Gidlunds förlag 2016. Reviewed by Lene Halskov Hansen, pp. 3-4

Lene Halskov Hansen, Balladesang og kædedans. To aspekter af dansk folkevisekultur. Museum Tusculanums forlag. København 2015. Reviewed by Märta Ramsten, pp. 5-7

Bernhard R. Appel und Reinmar Emans (eds.), Musikphilologie. Grundlagen – Methoden – Praxis (Kompendien Musik, 3) Laaber, Laaber-Verlag 2017. Reviewed by Axel Teich Geertinger, pp. 8–11

Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann and Christiane Wiesenfeldt (eds.), Der Komponist Friedrich Ludwig Æmilius Kunzen (1761–1817). Gattungen. Werke. Kontexte. Köln, Böhlau Verlag, 2015. Reviewed by Bjarke Moe, pp. 12–14

John Bergsagel, David Hiley & Thomas Riis (eds.), Of Chronicles and Kings, National Saints and the Emergence of Nation States in the High Middle Ages. Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanum Press, 2016. Reviewed by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, pp. 15–18