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‘Salve, regina, mater misericordiae … ad te clamamus … ad te suspiramus’: when this lovely Marian antiphon is sung, whether by one person or many, it is intoned on behalf of all mankind. ‘Ave sanctissima Maria … libera me ab omni malo; ora pro peccato meo’: when this prayer is said, it is the individual who begs the Virgin's intercession, who pleads for her to free him from evil, who asks her to pray for his sins. Prayers in the first person singular, a direct address on the most personal level, I and thou, are usually private. It would seem surprising to find them set to music for several voices, and yet settings begin to appear towards the end of the fifteenth century. What does it mean to sing one of these prayers? For whom do the singers sing: each for himself? each for all the other singers? for the listeners?
Robert Schumann's review of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique has attracted continued intensive scholarly attention since its serialized publication in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in 1835. There is a marked tendency in that attention to focus on a set of closely related critical themes: to use the review as a key to the German reception of Berlioz; to read it in terms of what it demonstrates about Schumann's own critico-aesthetic position; to see it as a model of music-critical practices in the first half of the nineteenth century; to scrutinize it in terms of the insights it furnishes into music-analytical practices. More recent scholarship has also added to this cluster of scholarly topoi the formal design of the text, its polyvalent texture and, in particular, what Fred Everett Maus terms ‘intersubjectivity’, scrutinizing the text for any clues it might offer as to the manner in which constructions of forms of subjectivity are engaged, sustained, problematized or subverted. Maus's attention to this ‘intersubjectivity’ stands as testament to musicology's (somewhat belated) interest in theories of subjectivity (or subjectivities), and opens Schumann's text to myriad new readings. In particular, Maus begins to tease out the text's potential as an artefact for the study of contemporaneous formations of ‘the composer’ as a cultural ‘type’ in the music-critical idiom.
On 29 August 1865, an audience of critics and the general public gathered at the Salle Herz in Paris to witness and pass judgment on the results of an experiment set up three years earlier by the instrument manufacturer Alphonse Sax Jr, who aimed to demonstrate not only that women were capable of playing brass instruments, but that it was in their interests — on moral, health and potentially even career grounds — to do so. Although this concert of brass-band music, with supplementary items for harp and voice, marked the band's third public appearance (they had performed at the Palais d'Industrie in December 1864 and at a brass-band competition in Orbec earlier in August 1865), it was their first appearance at a major concert venue and represented their début in front of the massed Parisian press. When they walked on stage, members of the audience sniggered at the sight of a group of young women carrying brass instruments covering the entire range from the portable cornet to the heavyweights of the bass section. Plainly dressed, with only moderately full skirts, they proceeded to play an arrangement of Partant pour la Syrie, a popular romance set as a quick march, which was then thought to be by Eugénie de Beauharnais, and which under the reign of her son Napoléon III had gained the status of a national hymn. The march had been arranged by the group's conductor, Laure Micheli, who directed the ensemble in two other pieces. To wide acclaim, Émilie Lacroix then played a set of variations for cornet à pistons, arranged by J.-B. Dias, on the tune Le carnaval de Venise. The remaining members of the sextet are shadowy figures: Mlle Dias on second cornet (presumably the sister or daughter of the arranger Dias), Mlle Suzanne Legrand and Mme Neckra in the alto section, and Mlle Marie Legrand (presumably the sister of Suzanne) and Mme Worms playing bass instruments. The supporting artists were all women: the singers Mlle Marcus (also referred to in the press as Mlle Marens or Mlle Marius) and Mme Neulat de Chambon, and the harpist Mlle Waldteufel (a joint first-prize winner at the Paris Conservatoire and former pupil of Antoine Prumier); Suzanne Legrand doubled as accompanist for the singers.
On 21 November 1853, Charles Dickens wrote to his wife from Florence, complaining about his friend and travelling-companion, fellow novelist Wilkie Collins:
On music too, he is very learned, and sometimes almost drives me into a frenzy by humming and whistling whole overtures -with not one movement correctly remembered from the beginning to the end. I was obliged to ask him, the day before yesterday, to leave off whistling the overture to William Tell. ‘For by Heaven,’ said I, ‘there's something the matter with your ear — it must be the cotton which plays the Devil with the commonest tune.’