Goethe: Musical Poet, Musical Catalyst

Carysfort Press, 2004

The high degree of admiration for Goethe by people of all kinds, including some who were themselves possessed of creative ability of the highest order, and in fields quite different from literature is something unique in the history of European culture. Reasons for the poet’s reputation are found not only in his art but in his influence on contemporaries, and on the generation of artists and musicians who came after him. Perhaps more than any other writer, Goethe has had a great influence on a European musical heritage which – despite reimagining the canon in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – continues to the present day. 

Given not just the magnitude of Goethe’s artistic genius but its exceptionally forward-looking character, it is little wonder that the attitudes of many gifted artists towards him were ambivalent or antagonistic. The aim of this volume is to redress the salient misconception that Goethe was unmusical, and to explore some of the musical riches his poetry has inspired from the nineteenth century to the present day.

“One of the strengths of the volume is its abundant musical examples: the inclusion of complete scores of over a dozen songs by Goethe’s contemporaries alone – the majority of which are not available in modern editions –enhances our understanding of Schubert’s predecessors and contemporaries. Part of the value of Bodley’s book lies in bringing these two worlds [Germanistics and Musicology] into closer contact, and it is to be hoped that future ventures will further this process.”

Professor James Garrett,
University of Manchester
Germanistik in Ireland 2 (2007), 112


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