Throughout the 19th century, the idealized German maiden was molded in the vein of Goethe’s
Gretchen and praised for her innocence. Literature and art emphasized her purity and lack of artifice
by associating her with elements of nature, such as flowers. Literary critics, and to some extent art
historians, have acknowledged the societal significance of these types of female figures, noting that
such characters modeled behavior that the 19th century extolled as the embodiment of German womanhood.
By contrast, musicologists have been slow to explore the societal implications of this character.
This paper begins to explore how similar gentle, submissive maidens were portrayed in lieder,
beginning with the early 19th century songs of Friedrich Heinrich Himmel. Later songs, including
those by Schumann and Brahms portrayed similar maidens, and in some cases these works resembled
Himmel's in that they drew on elements of folk music to emphasize the girls' innocence and grace. In
the last decades of the century, new images of cosmopolitan young women began to appear in literature
and the visual arts. Lieder were also influenced by this transformation and more sexually experienced
female characters are vividly portrayed in the music of Hugo Wolf.
|Keywords:||Music, Lieder, Images of Women, German Society, 19th-Century Art and Literature; Composers: Himmel, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg; Writers: Chamisso, Gottfried Keller|
Professor of Music History, School of Music, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA
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