1st Edition

Music and Sentimentalism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

By Stephen Downes Copyright 2021
    324 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    324 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In a wide-ranging study of sentimentalism’s significance for styles, practices and meanings of music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a series of interpretations scrutinizes musical expressions of sympathetic responses to suffering and the longing to belong. The book challenges hierarchies of artistic value and the associated denigration of sentimental feeling in gendered discourses. Fresh insights are thereby developed into sentimentalism’s place in musical constructions of emotion, taste, genre, gender, desire, and authenticity.

    The contexts encompass diverse musical communities, performing spaces, and listening practices, including the nineteenth-century salon and concert hall, the cinema, the intimate stage persona of the singer-songwriter, and the homely ambiguities of ‘easy’ listening. Interdisciplinary insights inform discussions of musical form, affect, appropriation, nationalisms, psychologies, eco-sentimentalism, humanitarianism, consumerism, and subject positions, with a particular emphasis on masculine sentimentalities.

    Music is drawn from violin repertory associated with Joseph Joachim, the piano music of Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt, sentimental waltzes from Schubert to Ravel, concert music by Bartók, Szymanowski and Górecki, the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of The Remains of the Day, Antônio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova, and songs by Duke Ellington, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Barry Manilow and Jimmy Webb.

    The book will attract readers interested in both the role of music in the history of emotion and the persistence and diversity of sentimental arts after their flowering in the eighteenth-century age of sensibility.

    1.Introduction: Getting Sentimental

    Part 1: Spaces

    2. Sentimental virtues in the Victorian Salon: Joseph Joachim on the lawn and in the lounge.

    3. Feeling and Design Magnified: the place and status of sentimental music in the nineteenth-century concert hall.

    Part 2: Genres

    4. Sentimental Waltzes: tender steps from Goethe to Ravel.

    5. Longing to Belong: Nationalism, sentimentalism, and the Second Violin

    Concertos of Bartók and Szymanowski.

    Part 3: Psychologies

    6. Sentimentalism and Masochism: Barthes’s Schumann and Schumann’s ‘Chopin’.

    7. Two Sentimental English Gentlemen: ‘screen memories’, a Schubert lied and the

    voice of Gracie Fields in Merchant-Ivory’s The Remains of the Day.

    Part 4: Appropriations

    8. Ellington, Liszt, and Chopin’s Death Bed.

    9. Chopin on the Beach: Bossa nova, Tom Jobim’s ‘Insensatez’, and sentimental


    10. Chopin and the Power Ballad: Barry Manilow’s ‘Could it be Magic?’

    Part 5: Sympathies

    11. Make it ‘Easy’? Sentimental subject positions in songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal


    12. Homes and Roads: the song writing of Carole King and Jimmy Webb.

    Coda: Compassion, Mediation and the Consumer

    13. Górecki’s Tears/ Our Tears.


    Stephen Downes is Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author/editor of nine books, including Music and Decadence in European Modernism (2010), After Mahler (2013), and Aesthetics of Music (2014).