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Fantasies of ImprovisationFree Playing in Nineteenth-Century Music$
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Dana Gooley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190633585

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190633585.001.0001

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Carl Loewe’s Performative Romanticism

Carl Loewe’s Performative Romanticism

(p.116) 3 Carl Loewe’s Performative Romanticism
Fantasies of Improvisation

Dana Gooley

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 is about Carl Loewe, a little-known musician who undertook an unprecedented and remarkable task: improvising entire songs, both the melody and the accompaniment, on poems given to him by the audience. This chapter reconstructs Loewe’s methods for performing this difficult feat and describes the cultural impetuses that motivated it. I propose that Loewe’s improvisations, performed mainly on a series of concert tours he undertook in the 1830s, condensed a number of independent cultural strains—the kapellmeister’s fluency in keyboard improvisation, the practice of touring virtuosos, the literary cult of poetic improvisers, and the genre theory of the ballad, which described it as a species of epic or bardic narration that was understood as improvisatory in character.

Keywords:   ballad, Ballade, Carl Loewe, print culture, Lied, poetry, Weimar Classicism

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