Schumann's Virtuosity

Schumann's Virtuosity

Criticism, Composition, and Performance in Nineteenth-Century Germany
Alexander Stefaniak
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/19/2016
Format: Hardback 4 b&w illus., 31 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02199-1
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Considered one of the greatest composers—and music critics—of the Romantic era, Robert Schumann (1810–1856) played an important role in shaping nineteenth-century German ideas about virtuosity. Forging his career in the decades that saw abundant public fascination with the feats and creations of virtuosos (Liszt, Paganini, and Chopin among others), Schumann engaged with instrumental virtuosity through not only his compositions and performances but also his music reviews and writings about his contemporaries. Ultimately, the discourse of virtuosity influenced the culture of Western "art music" well beyond the nineteenth century and into the present day. By examining previously unexplored archival sources, Alexander Stefaniak looks at the diverse approaches to virtuosity Schumann developed over the course of his career, revealing several distinct currents in nineteenth-century German virtuosity and the enduring flexibility of virtuosity discourse.

Author Bio

Alexander Stefaniak is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Washington University in Saint Louis.


“This is a fascinating look into the more abstract aspects of 19th-century musical attitudes and how it has fueled long standing conversations on the value of poetic interiority over overt technical virtuosity. ”
 — American Music Teacher

“Among the most distinguished results of Stefaniak's study is to have reminded us of...the challenges of scholarly engagement with complex, often contradictory manifestations of lived experience.”
 — Die Musikforschung

Schumann’s Virtuosity is thoughtfully organized and loosely chronological, with in-depth, elegant analyses of relevant examples.”
 — Nineteenth-Century Music Review

“Stefaniak’s book remains a valuable resource for musicologists, theorists, pianists, and aestheticians interested in reading about Schumann’s views on virtuosity.”
 — Notes

“It is refreshing to read a contemporary scholarly book that embraces aesthetics so forcefully.”
 — Choice

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Virtuosity Discourse

Part I: Schumann and the Piano Virtuosity of the 1830s
Part I Introduction
1. Florestan among the Revelers: Postclassical Virtuosity and Schumann’s Critique of Pleasure
2. Florestan’s Wine, Clara Wieck’s Spirit: Postclassical Virtuosity and Poetic Interiority
3. Poetic Showpieces in the Cultivated Salon
4. Virtuosity and the Rhetoric of the Sublime

Part II: The Virtuoso on Mount Parnassus: Schumann and the Culture of the Work Concept
Part II Introduction
5. Steps to Parnassus? Schumann’s Equivocal Work Concept
6. Festivals of the Virtuoso Priesthood: Collaborating with Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim
List of Endnote Abbreviations

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