The 19th-Century South-Eastern Europe Salons: Laboratories of the Musical “Europeanisation” (3)

The 19th-Century South-Eastern Europe Salons: Laboratories of the Musical “Europeanisation” (3)

With a last set of texts presented during the International Conference of November 21-23, 2019 hosted by the New Europe College and the National University of Music Bucharest, this issue completes the thematic and methodological perspective approached in the project Elites and Their Musics. Music and Music-Making in the 19th-Century South-Eastern Europe Salons, coordinated by Nicolae Gheorghiță.1 New angles of 19th-century musical life – from Croatia and Romania, this time – are depicted, by means of “visiting” salons of the time, of investigating the incipient processes of musical institutionalization and modernization, and of exploring rare manuscripts.

Backed by various sources of that period, Vjera Katalinić steps inside some of the salons held by influential citizens and noblemen in Zagreb in the first half of the 19th century. The author follows the dynamics of such events whose members – intellectuals, literates, musicians – had both a cultural and a political agenda. She also shows how Zagreb soirées changed in time: if at the beginning of the researched period they were the continuation of the representative enlightened salons, gatherings during the 1830s-1840s reflected the intensification of the national revival movement.

In counterpart, Stanislav Tuksar’s study foregrounds the music of Zagreb salons as made in the second half of the 19th century while highlighting the significant changes happening in the decades after the Revolution of 1848 and the beginning of World War I. Identifying over twenty private spaces, homes of aristocrats or bourgeois, where music was cultivated, the author offers a two-fold investigation, looking at the music in the salons, which he relates to a substantial participation of Zagreb instrumentalists, and at music for the salons. Tuksar offers details on the most original local contribution to the latter, in the field of dance music: hrvatsko (Croatian) kolo or salonsko (salon), nationally relevant.

The beginnings of music institutionalization on Romanian soil throughout the 19th century are the central point of the study penned by Antigona Rădulescu. In her brief account of the slow process of the Romanian principalities breaking away from the Oriental influence and adhering to European values, the author pinpoints historical, social-political, and cultural landmarks. As concerns music, she reveals both a mindset and an attitude change – mostly due to the elites’ studies abroad – as well as, in particular, a number of aspects on the establishment of dedicated institutions. The author’s attention focuses especially on the efforts to professionalize musical education that were made at the Bucharest Conservatoire from its foundation in 1864 and to the end of the century.

The last pieces in the current issue of Musicology Today, by Nicolae Gheorghiță and by Speranța Rădulescu, bring out two musical manuscripts held at the Romanian Academy Library in Bucharest. Illustrating the repertoires practiced in Romanian salons during the first decades of the 19th century, these documents required careful detective work. In the mix of Western and (presumably) Romanian music pieces featured in manuscript 2663 of 1824, which he investigates from multiple angles, Gheorghiță identifies the oldest and largest local anthology of piano salon music, an important testimony as to the tastes of the elites of the time. In her turn, examining with typical ethnological tools manuscript 2575, dated c. 1830, Rădulescu doesn’t just describe the musical contents of the source, but also formulates a series of hypotheses, which she convincingly supports, as to the author of the collection, the beneficiary of the notebook with musical notations, and the way the works in the manuscript are grouped – first the Balkan, then the Romanian ones.

Far from being thoroughly known, musical salons are still a territory waiting to be mapped. Musicology Today invites you, for the third consecutive issue, to new explorations of this area of the 19th-century music social history deserving closer attention.


Florinela Popa
English version by Maria Monica Bojin


1 The conference was supported by the Doctoral School of the National University of Music Bucharest (Fondul de Dezvoltare Instituțională: CNFIS-FDI-2019-0171).

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