Art Song

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song

song, 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.

Apart from the recently discovered cuneiform tablet containing a song from the Middle East of the 2d millennium B.C., now thought to be the oldest notated music known, and apart from ancient Greek song (see Greek music), the manuscripts of which are lost, the first outstanding examples of art song before the baroque period are those of the troubadours, trouvères, minnesingers, and meistersingers. The refined, lyrical air de cour of late 16th-century France, for one or more voices with lute accompaniment, provided the inspiration for the ayre composed by the early 17th-century English lutenists, among whom were John Dowland, Thomas Campion, and Thomas Morley.

The Italians centered their principal attention upon the development of the opera. The principle of accompanied monody, which originated in Italy and is inseparable from the early development of opera, also marked the beginning of modern accompanied song, although the speech rhythms of recitative and the elaborateness of most opera arias are usually thought of as being beyond the realm of song. A direct influence is shown in the German lied of the 17th cent., a monodic song with a basso continuo accompaniment. Outstanding among earlier examples are the Arien of Heinrich Albert (1604–51) and those of Adam Krieger (1634–66).

The German romantic lieder of the 19th cent., in which the vocal line and the piano accompaniment are of equal musical significance, are considered to be among the finest of all art songs. The lied style was articulated by Schubert and developed further by Schumann, Brahms, and Hugo Wolf. Among the poets whose lyrics they used were Goethe, Chamisso, Eichendorff, Rückert, Wilhelm Müller, Heine, and Mörike. Among modern German songs those of Hindemith and of Schoenberg are outstanding. Some of these require the technique of Sprechstimme, a pitched declamation that is a hybrid of song and speech.

In France a renewed interest in song composition began in the 19th cent. with Berlioz and was continued in the works of Franck, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc. The foremost Russian composers of the genre include Glinka, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Gretchaninov, and Glière. The dramatic songs of Moussorgsky are particularly significant. In the United States the songs of Stephen Foster had such national appeal as to become incorporated into the folk tradition. Charles Ives brought a striking originality to the modern American art song.

See ballad; carol; chantey; hymn; plainsong; rock music; and spiritual. See also birdsong.

Bibliography

See P. Warlock, The English Ayre (1926); E. Schumann, German Song (1948); S. Kagen, Music for the Voice (1949); D. Ivey, Song: Anatomy, Imagery, and Styles (1970); D. Stevens, ed., A History of Song (1960, rev. 1970); H. T. Finck, Songs and Song Writers (1900, repr. 1973); J. Hall, Art Song (1974); M. Booth, The Experience of Songs (1981); S. S. Prawer, The Penguin Book of Lieder (1987); R. Lissauer, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (1991, rev. ed. 1996).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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