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This report is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Romanticism and Child Mortality Iain Bamforth

It is now possible to purchase recorded music which acknowledges not so much the composer as his lyric sources: there are comprehensive collections of Shakespeare, Burns and Pushkin - to name but three writers whose poetry inspired composers from quite different national traditions to set their words to music. And there is Goethe: the label Capriccio issues a double CD (C49270-1/C49271-9) titled Goethe und die Musik which boxes a couple of dozen interpretations from composers as different as Beethoven, Wolf, Gounod, Massenet and Mahler.

I used this collection when I was lecturing, a decade ago, on Strasbourg's role in the origins of German Romanticism to a bunch of American students spending a semester in the city as part of Syracuse University's regular exchange programme. We spent a few hours looking at the documentary evidence of Goethe's time as a law student at the university, as recounted in his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit, and gained a sense of the considerable impact his years in Alsace - under French administration for a century at that time but still almost entirely a German-speaking ('Elsässerditsch') region - had on his later career, not least in preparing him for the Werther experience and in seeding the first notions of his drama Faust, which took sixty years to bring to its final form. Alsace was a Sturm und Drang cockpit, and not just for Goethe.

My students listened to several songs from the CDs - Kuhlau's version of 'Über allen ...

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