Two Roads Converged in a Wood: The Intersection of Fairy Tales and Western Piano Music
Heinrichs, Jane Ellen
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The history of fairy tales is long and complex, extending back to shadowed origins in ancient cultures. The stories have been used for a kaleidoscope of purposes across centuries—for cultural identity and cohesion, for education in morality, for social interaction, for skill-building in speech and rhetoric, for psychoanalysis, for publishing and commerce, for film, visual arts and music. Historically, fairy tales had sporadic and effusive bursts of popularity, especially in the Italian Renaissance, during seventeenth-century France, and across nineteenth-century Europe and America. Western European and American composers were caught up in the enthusiasm for folktale and fairy tale collections published throughout Europe beginning with Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s first edition of tales in 1812. This dissertation focuses on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century composers who wrote fairy tale-based piano music in four countries: France, Norway, America and Germany. The highlighted composers and their folklore-influenced works include Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Edvard Grieg, Edward MacDowell and Franz Liszt. These composers’ works demonstrate the multi-national, deep current of attraction that existed toward the tales, a genre which was not particularly suited to children until relatively recent history. The elasticity of the stories made them adaptable to many musical settings, including opera, symphonic works, and ballet, as well as the solo piano works represented in this document.
- Music