Date of Degree
Joseph N. Straus
chamber music, string quartet, Belle Epoque, cyclic form, forme lied, absolute music
Defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) caused a radical rethinking of French cultural priorities, including a shift in musical composition from theatrical genres to purely instrumental works. As concert music rose to prominence, French writers became intrigued by absolute music’s ability to communicate expressively without recourse to verbal language. Within this context, chamber music composed during the Belle Epoque (1871–1918) became the ultimate symbol of music’s ineffability. Despite its centrality to Belle Epoque culture, the stylistic origins and context of this genre remain unexamined. My dissertation argues that Belle Epoque chamber music became the locus of a complex aesthetic in which French composers suffused Classical genres with musical innovations that paradoxically owed much to German Romanticism. This aesthetic mirrors a larger tension in Belle Epoque culture as the French, in an attempt to create their own independent national identity, simultaneously rejected Prussian culture and yet found themselves indebted to German Romanticism.
Perley, Naomi, "Chamber Music, Cyclic Form, and the Ideal of the Absolute in French Music and Literature, 1890–1918" (2019). CUNY Academic Works.