The Sound of the Virtuoso (Paris 1830-1840)

The project investigates how different forms of listening emerge via the differentiation between different kinds of performances and their discursification. The focus is on the musical styles of the virtuosi in Paris in the 1830s, a moment created by the development of a musical (general) public and the appreciation of music as an art at the beginning of the nineteenth century. On the basis of instrumental schools (e.g., P. Baillot, L’art du violon; K. Guhr, Über Paganinis Kunst die Violine zu spielen), practical auditory knowledge is considered in conjunction with the techniques of the virtuosi. I look at how auditory knowledge manifests itself in the new development and improvement of playing techniques such as flageolet, vibrato, and portamento. In addition, I ask to what extent the compositions of Niccolo Paganini, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst or Henri Vieuxtemps (Dispositives) reveal a virtuoso rhetoric that aims to have a specific effect on the audience. In what ways do concert programs and performances take this special auditory knowledge into account or seek to evoke it (for example, via the intentional dramaturgy of intensification or the heightened presence of arrangements of text-based works in song or opera fantasias)? How much freedom does the composition offer the virtuoso, and how does the virtuoso use this freedom in his or her performance? How does the virtuoso stage the tension between controlled compositional moments and improvisational performance? Additionally, I analyze reviews, critiques, and musical-literary representations (Heine, Fetis, Block/Brucker, and Berthoud, among others) in order to show how these forms construct the virtuoso as an event, how they discursify the auditory and the effects of music, and how they allow the virtuoso to emerge as a figure somewhere between pleasure and violence, art and commerce.