Songs for the Greeks: Philhellenism and the Musical Settings of Müller in the German Confederation
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The Greek War of Independence inspired a wide range of artistic responses across Europe, as artists from the domains of literature, the visual arts, and music paid attention to unfolding events on the Peloponnese. Much research has examined French musical responses to the Greek independence movement, largely due to the influence of the French Revolution on the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Equally significant are responses from German-speaking regions which, like the French, supported the Greek cause both financially and artistically. The musical responses from German-speaking regions, however, are yet to receive sustained scholarly attention. This thesis demonstrates that the German-speaking world maintained an active interest in the Greek cause through their musical activities. A deep appreciation for Greek culture was widespread across Europe by the early-nineteenth century, and this thesis builds on prior scholarship which argues that philhellenism takes on a political dimension from the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Support for the Greek cause appeared from the German literary world through the most outspoken German philhellene Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), whose series of philhellenic poetry, the “Griechenlieder,” inspired many musical responses. By closely examining selected musical settings inspired by Müller within the socio-political context of the Greece War of Independence, this thesis sheds new light on philhellenism in the German-speaking musical world. First, a historical overview of the Greek War of Independence and the philhellenic context across the German Confederation will be provided, establishing the context in which Müller and his musical contemporaries created their works. Two benefit concerts will be contrasted as examples of this musical support and situated within this broader political context. The second chapter examines three musical settings of Müller’s philhellenic works. An analysis of Lieder by Berlin-based composers, Ludwig Berger (1777–1839) and Bernhard Klein (1793–1832) demonstrates a contrasting philhellenic musical style to that of the Bavarian Joseph Demharter (1793–). A dedication to the Greeks on the front cover of Klein’s collection of songs also indicates that he participated in a culture of benefit publications. The final chapter examines the social and political context surrounding another work inspired by Müller, albeit in an Austrian context. Given the philhellenism exhibited by Schubert and his circle, the composer’s choice of Müller during the Greek War is arguably a political one and warrants a political reading of Winterreise as a sentiment of philhellenic support. My reading seeks not to negate existing interpretations of a canonic work but, rather, to complement them by considering the extraordinary political circumstances from which the work arose in addition to the political convictions held by the work’s co-creators. The events of the Greek War evoked many musical responses from philhellenes even beyond the shores of Europe, all of which form part of the story of how Greece gained its independence. This thesis demonstrates that the German-speaking musical world maintained significant interest in the political circumstances of the Greeks through the textual choice of Müller. The creation of musical publications and the participation in musical events dedicated to the Greek cause is indicative of the strong support exhibited by German-speaking territories. Philhellenism in the musical world deserves ongoing attention and is certainly timely, given the recent passing of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence which ultimately led to the international recognition of Greece as an independent state in 1830.