The NUI Maynooth Department of Music and the School of Modern Languages, Literature, and Culture are pleased to invite papers on Goethe's Faust in Music for an international conference to take place 20-22 April 2012.
For further reference on settings of Goethe's Faust please see Settings of Goethe's Faust
Professor Nicholas Boyle, Schroeder Professor of German, Madgalene College Cambridge
Professor Thomas Bauman, Professor of Musicology, Northwestern University, USA
Professor Osman Durrani, Professor of German, University of Kent
The name ‘Faust’ and the adjective ‘faustian’ are as emblematic of the supra-intellectual as they are of the tragic. Such concepts haunt German cultural life and have prompted countless discussions in philosophy, literature, the visual arts and music, especially in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through this a broad trajectory can be traced from Zelter’s colourful record of the first setting of Goethe’s Faust - composed by prince and rehearsed by a royal cast in Berlin in 1816 - to Alfred Schnittke’s Faust opera of 1993. Between these two realizations, a floodtide of musical interpretations of Goethe’s Faust came into existence; these explore the theme of love, so central to opera, and the concomitant themes of redemption for both Gretchen and Faust.
A theatrical work with the artistic virtuosity and moral gravity of Goethe’s Faust need not be musically inclusive, yet Goethe sought out many burgeoning musicians - Heinrich Schmieder, Carl Friedrich Zelter, Carl Eberwein and Prince Anton Heinrich Radziwill – as possible composers of Faust. While Goethe longed to have Faust set to music and considered only Mozart and perhaps Meyerbeer as being equal to the task, by the end of his life he had abandoned hope that he would live to witness a musical setting of his text. In Goethe’s mind, ‘the awful and repulsive passages that must occasionally occur’ were ‘not in the style of the time’. For Goethe, ‘the music should be like Don Juan in character.’ Goethe’s connection of Faust and Don Juan is evident in their human nature and tragic downfall and it is interesting that Hermann Reutter should profile these figures in his opera, Don Juan and Faust (1950). Kierkegaard also recognized their binding force and believed that: ‘Don Juan is the expression for the daemonic characterized as the sensual and Faust is the expression of the daemonic characterized as the spiritual’. For Goethe the daemonic was most strongly manifest in music, and its irrational effect on the listener would convey the central themes of his text.
Despite this and despite the numerous settings it has inspired, the centrality of Faust I and II in German music theatre remain unexplored. In recent studies Hans Joachim Kreutzer (2003) has observed that the musical rhetoric of Faust I and II is organic and central to its form, and Tina Hartmann’s analysis of the musical material in Faust (2004) traces how the libretto emerged from a wonderfully intricate web of musico-theatrical connections in texts: Goethe’s concept of a world theatre in the prologue can be connected to the baroque operatic tradition, for example, and the choral songs of the Nacht scene to the Baroque Passions of Graun and Bach. This conference will re-examine the musical origins of Goethe’s Faust and explore the musical dimensions of its legacy. It will seek to uncover the musical furore caused by Goethe’s Faust and consider why his polemical text was so resonant for the generations of composers that succeeded him.