art song

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art song:

see songsong,
relatively brief, simple vocal composition, usually a setting of a poetic text, often strophic, for accompanied solo voice. The song literature of Western music embodies two broad classifications—folk song and art song.
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Art Song

 

(in Russian, romans, from Spanish romance and Late Latin romanice; literally, “in the Romance language,” or “in Spanish”), a chamber work of music and poetry for voice with instrumental accompaniment. The term, which originated in Spain in the Middle Ages and soon came into use in other countries, designated a secular song in Spanish—in the Romance language rather than in Latin, which was used in church vocal music. In some languages there is a single term for both the art song and the song—German Lied and English “song.” (The term “art song” is relatively new.) In Russia the term -romans originally referred to a vocal work with a French text, even if the composer was Russian. The term for a piece with a Russian text was rossiisskaia pesnia (Russian song).

The melody of an art song is more closely connected with the line of verse than is the melody of a song, reflecting not only the general character and poetic structure of the verse but also specific images and intonational and rhythmic elements. The instrumental accompaniment is very important in the art song and is often regarded as equal to the vocal part. The ballad, elegy, and barcarole in dance rhythms are varieties of the art song. The poems used in art songs have no set generic features. Usually, they are short, lyrical works with stanzas, rhyme, medium-length lines, and melodious intonation. As a genre synthesizing music and poetry, the art song flowered in the second half of the 18th century in Germany, France, and Russia. Its development was greatly influenced by the work of major poets, including Goethe, Heine, A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, and A. A. Fet. Outstanding national schools developed in the 19th century, including the German and Austrian, represented by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and H. Wolf; the French, represented by Berlioz, Gounod, Bizet, and Massenet; and the Russian, represented by Glinka, Dargomyzhskii, Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and S. I. Taneev. In Russian music the development of classic vocal chamber works was accompanied by the rise of the bytovoi romans, an art song inspired by everyday themes and intended for amateur singers, and the “gypsy art song.”

Nineteenth-century Russian composers, such as Dargomyzhskii and Mussorgsky, focused on developing the recitative. Many of the art songs by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff are reminiscent of the aria, with its broad, symphonic development. Striving to deepen the expressive possibilities of art songs, composers often combined them in cycles. An early example of this approach is Beethoven’s To the Distant Beloved (1816). The first full-fledged examples of the song cycle were written by Schubert (Die schöne Müllerin and The Winter Journey). Later, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Wolf, and many other composers, including Glinka, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, wrote song cycles. In the second half of the 19th through the early 20th century representatives of the Czech, Polish, Finnish, and Norwegian national schools wrote art songs.

Rejecting standard genres, 20th-century composers used the art song as a source of new ways to synthesize music and words. Many composers, including Wolf, Debussy, Taneev, Rachmaninoff (in his later years), and Prokofiev, referred to such works not as art songs but as “poems for voice with accompaniment.”

In Soviet music, the art song has been characterized by the creative development of classic vocal chamber genres in the work of A. N. Aleksandrov, N. Ia. Miaskovskii, Iu. A. Shaporin, and Iu. V. Kochurov and by the reform of classic genres by strengthening their song elements (G. V. Sviridov) or their declamatory features and their capacity for characterization (Prokofiev, Shostakovich). The art song’s range of expressive means is expanding. Song cycles are written for several singers or for a soloist with an instrumental ensemble.

The term romans (“romance”) is often applied to songlike, melodious pieces for violin, cello, and other instruments and to lyrical poems without musical accompaniment, constructed according to the same system of intonational features as typical romance texts (V. P. Zhukovskii’s Desire, P. Verlaine’s Songs Without Words, and A. S. Pushkin’s On a Rainy Autumn Night).

REFERENCES

Cui, C. A. Russkii romans. St. Petersburg, 1896.
Levasheva, O. E. “Romans i pesnia: A. D. Zhilin, D. N. Kashkin.” In Ocherki po istorii russkoi muzyki, 1790–1825. Leningrad, 1956.
Vasina-Grossman, V. A. Russkii klassicheskii romans XIX veka. Moscow, 1956.
Vasina-Grossman, V. A. Romanticheskaia pesnia XIX veka. Moscow, 1966.
Vasina-Grossman, V. A. Mastera sovetskogo romansa. Moscow, 1968.
Moser, H. J. Das deutsche Lied seit Mozart, vols. 1–2. Berlin-Zürich [1937].
Gougelot, H. La Romance française sous la Révolution et l’Empire. Melun, 1943.
Noske, F. La Mélodie française de Berlioz à Dupare. Paris-Amsterdam, 1954.

V. A. VASINA-GROSSMAN

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