Goethe and Zelter: Musical Dialogues  book cover
1st Edition

Goethe and Zelter: Musical Dialogues

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ISBN 9781138259287
Published October 30, 2016 by Routledge
604 Pages

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Book Description

Goethe and Zelter spent a staggering 33 years corresponding or in the case of each artist, over two thirds of their lives. Zelter's position as director of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin and Goethe's location in Weimar resulted in a wide-ranging correspondence. Goethe's letters offer a chronicle of his musical development, from the time of his journey to Italy to the final months of his life. Zelter's letters retrace his path as stonemason to Professor of Music in Berlin. The 891 letters that passed between these artists provide an important musical record of the music performed in public concerts in Berlin and in the private and semi-public soirées of the Weimar court. Their letters are those of men actively engaged in the musical developments of their time. The legacy contains a wide spectrum of letters, casual and thoughtfully composed, spontaneous and written for publication, rich with the details of Goethe's and Zelter's musical lives. Through Zelter, Goethe gained access to the professional music world he craved and became acquainted with the prodigious talent of Felix Mendelssohn. A single letter from Zelter might bear a letter from Felix Mendelssohn to another recipient of the same family, reflecting a certain community in the Mendelssohn household where letters were not considered private but shared with others in a circle of friends or family. Goethe recognized the value of such correspondence: he complains when his friend is slow to send letters in return for those written to him by the poet, a complaint common in this written culture where letters provided news, introductions, literary and musical works. This famous correspondence contains a medley of many issues in literature, art, and science; but the main focus of this translation is the music dialogues of these artists.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; A musical Odyssey: 35 years of correspondence between Goethe and Zelter; Early years' correspondence 1796-1814; Middle years' correspondence 1815-1825; Later years' correspondence 1826-1832; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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Dr Lorraine Byrne Bodley is Lecturer in the Department of Music at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.


’...an excellent translation, and discussion, of Goethe and composer Carl Friedrich Zelter’s correspondence about music...makes a major contribution to understanding both men...Bodley’s rich, far-reaching documentation includes details about their few personal encounters. Opening new avenues to scholars of music and the humanities, this title will certainly stimulate further research...Highly recommended. All readers.’ Choice 'Lorraine Byrne Bodley provides for the first time the complete musical correspondence between Goethe and Zelter. Hitherto there has never been a published monograph on the musical dialogues between the poet and man of letters in Weimar and the composer and pedagogue in Berlin, neither in English nor in German. The correspondence now shows us a wider picture of their moving friendship and of their sensitive thinking and imaginative observations on music. The quality ofthe translation is remarkable. To borrow from the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutic reflexions on language: 'there is actually no translation but replacement'. From this standpoint the 'translator' becomes an interpreter who is to elucidate the meaning of the texts. Particularily in discussions on technical musical details this hermeneutical claim has been convincingly achieved.' Dr Claus Canisius, author of the seminal study Goethe und die Musik (1998) 'The Goethe-Zelter correspondence belongs among the richest and most illuminating documents of German cultural history in the early nineteenth century. Lorraine Byrne Bodley's fine translation, expert annotation, and contextual discussion of this 35-year-long dialogue between a literary hero and one of the leading, most seminal, yet much underestimated musical figures of the time brings to life a fascinating and colorful period of musical life and thought that helped shape the future.' Professor Christoph Wolff, Adams University Professor, Department of Music, Harvard University, USA ’Lorraine Byrne