Declamation with Music

Declamation with Music

 

(in Russian, melodeklamatsiia), or recitation to music, the expressive reading of a text, usually poetry, to musical accompaniment, generally the piano. Occasionally, declamation with music is included in operas and dramatic plays. Melodramas are stage works based entirely on declamation with music.

In the 18th century the melodrama gave rise to the independent declamation with music, which was intended for concert performances and usually consisted of ballad-like texts. Schubert, Schumann, and Liszt are among the composers who wrote in this genre. In Russia, declamation with music achieved wide popularity in the 1870’s. The composer G. A. Lishin (1854–88), who created a number of such works and performed them on the concert stage, was a vigorous proponent of the genre. A. S. Arenskii composed several declamations with music based on I. S. Turgenev’s prose poems. However, none of these works transcended the limitations of salon art.

In the 19th century a special form of declamation with music developed outside of Russia. The rhythm and often even the pitch of the declamation were fixed by means of notation. In the 20th century this type of declamation has been developed in the works of a number of composers, including A. Schönberg, A. Berg, P. Boulez, and L. Nono.

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