Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Musikwissenschaft


Wintersemester 2023/24
  • Mark Berry

    Mozart's Operas in Political and Intellectual Context

    This project will consider Mozart's complete operas (1767-91) individually and as a developmental corpus, in eighteenth-century political and intellectual context: as much a history of central Europe through these works as vice versa. A complex art form such as opera, involving words, music, and staging, brought into being by performers and audience, in contexts socially constructed and which it also helps form, requires interdisciplinary study. I undertake this as an historian and musicologist, drawing on cognate disciplines such as philosophy, theology, literature, theatre studies, and art/architectural history. I shall examine these works' engagement with a European public sphere, Christian and colonial conceptions of the wider world included: on the cusp of modernity yet with many strikingly different concerns.
    Particular concerns will include: exploration of the importance of Salzburg as an independent state within the Holy Roman Empire, and to distinguish between the Empire and the Habsburg monarchy; to explore the crucial role played by religion and theology; to heed marginalised and missing voices in these works; and to view Mozart's operas as a developmental œuvre, reconsidering canonical and non-canonical works alike. My work will result in a two volume monograph, one considering the works up to and including Idomeneo (1780-1) and the second Mozart's decade in Vienna, from Die Entführung aus dem Serail to La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte. I aim to make an original contribution to understanding of a crucial period of operatic history, to key works within that history, and to 'Europe', its historical development, and competing cultural identities both national and cosmopolitan.

    Royal Holloway, University of London


  • Francesco Fontanelli

    Beethoven's Late String Quartets (1824–25): Sketch Studies on the Berlin Collection

    My project explores Beethoven’s final period through a genetic study of the three string quartets, Op. 127, 130 and 132, to which he devoted himself entirely in 1824–25. These are extraordinary works that were long considered incomprehensible, the 'mistakes' of a completely deaf and alienated composer, but which fascinated 20th-century culture (from Eliot to Adorno and Thomas Mann). Although there is an extensive literature on the subject, there is still a lack of sketch studies that unravel the mysteries of these unique creations. That is why I am going to focus my investigation on the Beethoven manuscripts held in the music department of the Berlin State Library, where they were acquired in 1846 thanks to the mediation of Alexander von Humboldt. The presence of various types of material (at least eight pocket and desk sketchbooks, loose sheets, etc.) makes it possible to trace the genesis of the quartet cycle in its entirety, from the first sketches to the preparation of the scores. Once I have reconstructed the chronology of the creative process and the links between the Berlin autographs and other contemporary sources, I will analyze the musical content of the sketches to reflect on the changes in writing practice and the problems of compositional technique (e.g. the experimentation with sonata form, the conception of the theme and variations, and the strategies of motivic unity). This research, which I am carrying out on the basis of digital transcription programs, thus offers the chance to clarify the 'dynamics' of the text layers, looking at the still open questions about Beethoven's late style from a new perspective.

    Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage, Pavia University (Cremona)