The International Exhibition of Music and Drama that took place in Vienna in 1892 was the first and only event of its kind within a series of world’s fairs between the mid- and late nineteenth century. Although “music” had been displayed at other international exhibitions prior, Vienna 1892 was dedicated to the display of music and theater history and aimed at showcasing not only the historical development of Western music but also the abundant cultural history of European nations. Famous and influential world exhibitions such as the Great Exhibition (London 1851), the International Inventions Exhibition (London 1885), or the
Wiener Weltausstellung (Vienna World’s Fair) of 1873 displayed artifacts of musico-historical relevance as well as musical instruments. However, these exhibitionary objects served the function of complementing the bigger picture of demonstrating the cultural progress and innovation of the nations on display, and the illustration of music history was thus not the guiding theme that structured these exhibitions.
The following article is concerned with the display of music histor(iograph)y in the
Musikhistorische Abtheilung (musico-historical section) at Vienna 1892. Furthermore, it will investigate the “spatialization” and “musealization” of musico-historical narratives and how they were arranged and organized based on given spatial configurations and conventionalized exhibitionary practices that are rooted in the museal and display culture of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century museum. Moreover, it will discuss Guido Adler’s role—not only as a founding figure within musicology but as the curator of the Austrian-German-Hungarian section—and the adaptation of his musico-historical concept of periodization to fit the spatial configurations of the Rotunda, which was the main exhibition building that held all the objects representing the cultural history of Europe and beyond.
First, it will be shown that Adler’s musico-historical concept based on style periods, which he later delineated in his treatises
Der Stil in der Musik (Style in music, 1911), Methode der Musikgeschichte (Method of music history, 1919), and Handbuch der Musikgeschichte (Handbook of music history, 1930), already served as the basic principle of narrating and visualizing music history at Vienna 1892. Second, the article will also discuss the interiors within the musico-historical section, which were dedicated to various composers, because these spaces aimed at telling the biographies of the displayed composers visually, using different types of objects and paraphernalia that functioned as “visualized biographies” or “visual anecdotes,” as well as standard exhibitionary devices used in museums to tell coherent stories and turn the arrangement of objects into “visual narratives.” 2. Spatializing the Narrative: Guido Adler’s Historiographical Concept of Periodization
The division into style periods is the principal characteristic of the historiographic model underlying all of Adler’s treatises on music history. Periodization or style criticism—as he calls it—is comprised of three consecutive periods that must be grasped as an organic development with reference to evolutionary theory, which, however, should rather be comprehended as a metaphor, a mental concept that aids the illustration of the development and progress of music’s gradual evolvement. According to Adler, there are three style periods based on music’s inherent laws of “natural” historical development that encompass the music of the occident or “Western music.” In his
Handbuch der Musikgeschichte, he explains why music requires periodization and how this division into style periods is an intrinsic process that progresses naturally:
In order to make the great material of the musical development of the West within the Christian calendar clear, it must be structured. This happens most surely in the closest connection to the organic progression of music as its own art, with reference to the spiritual currents within the historical sections and taking into account the connections that the art of music has entered into in its successive stages with other arts, especially the art of poetry. In the foreground is the proprietary development of music, because never before had musical art achieved such independence and perfection as in the Christian West. From this point of view, the style periods are structured naturally as they develop from each other.
Although Adler includes the music of antiquity, his periodization (first style period) begins with the Gregorian chant. Thus, the first period is dominated by liturgical music, which should be apprehended as the basis of all other forms of music that follow thereafter. He also includes Byzantine church music, Russian church music, and the Jewish temple chant. The second style period encompasses liturgical and secular polyphonic music that developed between the ninth and the sixteenth century, emphasizing that the liturgical sphere influenced the secular sphere and vice versa. The third style period begins around 1600 with monody as a new style that came about with the advent of opera and is rooted in the madrigal. The last period—which is, however, not entitled as such—is modernity from 1880 onward.
Despite existing parallels with periods and schools in other arts as well as architecture, he advises to refrain from using these periodizations interchangeably, because every art form is influenced by divergent ideas and ideologies and therefore shape every art individually. Adler’s historiographical model following the principle of periodization is aptly illustrated in the table of contents of his handbook, as shown below: Figure 1: Table of contents of Guido Adler, Handbuch der Musikgeschichte: Mit vielen Notenbeispielen und Abbildungen zur Geschichte der Notenschrift, der Musikinstrumente, der Operndarstellung und mit Wiedergaben von Autographen (Berlin: Hesse, 1930), ix–x
In the following, I will compare the classifications and periodizations found in Adler’s historiographical writings with the catalogue of the musico-historical section Germany and Austria-Hungary in order to demonstrate that his musico-historiographical concept was already the underlying narrative structure at the exhibition. Basically, he adapted the concept of music history documented in his later treatises to the museal realm and used it as his organizing principle for the exhibition. This was not only realized visually but was also recorded in the written form of an accompanying exhibition catalogue.
Literary and cultural theorists call the medial change involved in turning a literary medium into a visual one “intermediality” or “intermedial transposition,” which designates the transposition of specific content, formal concepts, or configurations from one medium to another.
According to the definitions by Wolf and Rajewski, a “transposition of media” takes place when music history is displayed in an exhibition setting. Thus, music historiography is a literary medium that is “transposed” to a visual medium via the practice of exhibiting. Objects that are intermedially connected or can be characterized as “intermedial” are not always actual literary texts but can also be artifacts, performances, installations, and so on. When a literary form, such as a written music history, is compared with the exhibitionary display thereof, it undergoes a process of medial transposition and vice versa. But exhibitions also entail a combination of media, since they add descriptive texts providing information about an object’s purpose, meaning, or provenance. Hence, intermediality always refers to some sort of “transgression of boundaries between media” and denotes “relations between different semiotic complexes or between different parts of a semiotic complex.” In the case of Adler’s musico-historical section at Vienna 1892, the intermedial transposition is reversed: the exhibition took place before his historiographical writings were published; accordingly, his exhibitionary model existed before his written treatises did.
However, what needs to be taken into account—and what ultimately impacted the outcome of the exhibition—is that in the case of the musico-historical section in the Rotunda, the given spatial conditions exacerbated the problem of displaying music history according to Adler’s conceptual ideals, a problem that Adler discusses in the introduction to his catalogue. In that sense, one of the underlying issues was the accurate intermedial transposition of a historiographical model to a visual medium that was, after all, based on objects telling a history of music. What proved to be challenging here was that a historiographical model that is basically contingent on temporal relations had to be spatialized, and this involved adapting a formal concept and specific content to correspond to the given spatial conditions and configurations. In a museal context, the meaning-making process of the displayed content is contingent on how objects are arranged. In addition, visitors also rely on accompanying texts, such as catalogues, guides, and descriptions next to the displayed objects, which inform the visitor about their context, provenance, and so on.
Spatializing narratives that are organized on the basis of temporal relations or a chronology—and which must be adjusted to the exhibition space—was the biggest issue that Adler had to face. In the introduction to his catalogue of the musico-historical section, he specifically addresses this issue, which was first and foremost a problem of not being able to fully visualize his historiographical concept because of the alterations the spatial conditions in the Rotunda forced him to make. In addition, the requested objects did not arrive in time, necessitating constant adaptations and changes, as the quote below demonstrates:
The overriding principle that historically related things should stay together had to be broken from time to time. Some time shifts were accordingly inevitable, but the iron framework was always maintained with an iron fist. … The delayed arrival of some objects, including those from very important collections abroad, repeatedly resulted in changes in spatial arrangements. The classification of the related autographs and pictures repeatedly encountered local difficulties. Thus, the time limits of individual centuries could not be strictly adhered to. On the other hand, this overlapping had its positive consequences, just like the transfer of individual artists to an epoch to which they belong ideologically, but beyond which they extend far in time, e.g. von Weigl into the music of the second half or the last quarter of the XVIII. century. In the rear parts of some of the older departments, to save space, some larger instruments of more recent work had to be set up. Some of the living composers and virtuosos had sent neither autographs nor pictures, despite repeated requests (as they could not be found from individual deceased persons). Others had come back unsolicited, and it was not always acceptable to reject them.
The issue of space, which resulted in curatorial difficulties and impacted Adler’s endeavors to display music history according to his historiographical concept, is even visible in the table of contents in his catalogue.
Figure 2: Table of contents of Guido Adler, Fach-Katalog der Musikhistorischen Abtheilung von Deutschland und Oesterreich-Ungarn, nebst Anhang: Musikvereine, Concertwesen und Unterricht (Vienna: Im Selbstverlag der Ausstellungskommission, 1892), xiii–xiv
Due to the spatial dilemma, objects had to be moved to adjacent rooms. In the case of room VII, some objects had to be placed in room X. As the table of contents shows, the rooms that had to be adjusted and the objects that had to be moved to different rooms were marked with
Fortsetzung (continuation), as shown in table 1 below.
Development of Music Printing and Engraving
Development of Music Printing and Engraving. Theoreticians of the XVII. Century
Music of the XVIII. Century
Collection Karl Zach, Vienna
Music of the XVIII. Century
Music of the XIX. Century
Living Composers and Virtuosos
Music of the XIX. Century
Living Composers and Virtuosos
Music of the XIX. Century
Living Composers and Virtuosos
Music of the XIX. Century
Living Composers and Virtuosos
Table 1: Rooms that had to be continued in other rooms due to spatial issues
The composition of the musico-historical section entails three organizing principles or themes that also impacted the assemblage of the displayed objects and were at the time already conventionalized nineteenth-century exhibitionary practices
found in museums as well as at international exhibitions in general:
Adler’s historiographical model based on style periods (based on the display principles of history museums)
interiors dedicated to specific composers (based on museums dedicated to individuals such as writers and other artists)
instrument collections (found in other exhibitions related to Vienna 1892: London 1851, London 1885, and Vienna 1873)
The underlying model of Vienna 1892 was the format of international exhibitions, which served to showcase commercial and innovative objects and products. For that matter, Vienna 1892 also included a commercial exhibition that offered purchasable items and novelties. After all, one of the mottos of the nineteenth-century international exhibitions was “entertainment and instruction” (“Vergnügung und Belehrung”).
However, the musico-historical section’s main goal was the display of music history, even if there were difficulties with the concept’s implementation and adequate realization, as can be deduced from Adler’s own testimony above.
When comparing the arrangement of the musico-historical section with the structure of Adler’s handbook, we can see that he adhered to his historiographical model based on periodization in some of the rooms and tried to transpose his model to the visual sphere. Thus, one discursive domain in the musico-historical section is, as already categorized above, the display of Adler’s historiographical model, identified as an organizing principle or exhibitionary practice above. This model was found in the following rooms:
HISTORIOGRAPHICAL MODEL (PERIODIZATION)
Antiquity and Orient
Oldest Christian Music
Gregorian Chant, Theoreticians of the Middle Ages, the Dutch
Polyphonic Music of the XVI. Century. Secular Song and Dance of the Middle Ages
Catholic and Protestant Hymns. Theoreticians from the XV. to the XVII. Century
Vocal Music, predominantly of the XVII. Century
Orlando di Lasso. Development and Heyday of the Music at the Bavarian Court in the XV. and XVI. Century
Instrumental Music in the XVII. Century
The Modern Folk Song
The Opera in Munich, Vienna, Dresden, Hamburg, and Salzburg during the XVII. and one part of the XVIII. Century
Music of the XVIII. Century
Music of the XVIII. Century (Continuation)
Music of the XIX. Century
Continuation of XVIII.
Music of the XIX. Century. Deceased German Composers and Virtuosos
Deceased Composers and Virtuosos of the XIX. Century
Music of the XIX. Century
Continuation of XXII.
Continuation of XXIII.
Table 2: Spatialization / spatial adaptation of Adler’s historiographical model
Table 2 above illustrates the “overriding principle” that Adler refers to in the introduction of his catalogue, explaining the organizing scheme of his musico-historical section and how this “iron framework was always maintained with an iron fist.”
The second convention found in the Rotunda is the installation of interiors. In the nineteenth century, the so-called people museum was a particular phenomenon that was tied to the idea of exhibiting the works and the (intellectual) environment of “great men,” predominantly writers, and was a manifestation of the cultic veneration of the genius. The model of the
interieur was practically an invention of the nineteenth-century exhibition and was found at other international exhibitions. Thus, the interieur is a spatial exhibitionary practice resulting from the reciprocal relationship between the museum and the international exhibitions in which one medium influenced the tradition of the other and vice versa.
In the musico-historical section, there are sixteen interiors dedicated to composers of different epochs. In addition, there is one interior, the Habsburg-Lorraine interior, which served to represent the monarchy by displaying monarchs that were also composers as well as some of their works, such as the
Kaiserwerke (The Imperial Works of Ferdinand III, Leopold I, and Joseph I), which became the first volume of the Monumenta series. The Gibichungenhalle (Hall of the Gibichungs), which was dedicated to Richard Wagner, was not placed in the Rotunda but in a separate building in the exhibition park. Although the installation of interiors broke with Adler’s historiographical model, the interiors were placed accordingly, complementing the respective centuries and epochs. This is not only chronologically and historically apt; it is also a historiographical narrative model found in nineteenth-century treatises on music history and corresponds to the practice of “doing” music history on the basis of personae representative of an epoch, a school, or a style.
What is more, in his handbook, Adler dedicates a section to the
Wiener klassische Schule (First Viennese School). At the exhibition, the display thereof is realized in the form of specific interiors dedicated to composers that number among the most pivotal and style-inspiring figures of this school, such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. However, the organization and arrangement of the interiors exposes that the principle of the interieur overruled historiographical pursuits because they were tantamount to little shrines for the worship and veneration of geniuses, following the agenda of the people museum.
The third tradition found in the musico-historical section is the exhibition of instrument collections. Vienna 1892 was the first and only international exhibition to have as its main theme the display of music and theater history. However, previous international exhibitions had showcased musical instruments, for example London 1851, London 1885, and Vienna 1873, to name just a few, but these events, focusing on different aspects, served as templates for Vienna 1892. Adler’s musico-historical section covers seven different instrument collections or smaller displays of groups of instruments dispersed in various rooms belonging to different themes or epochs. The interiors also contain instruments belonging to composers. Nevertheless, the display of these instruments performed a different function, which correlated with the showcasing of the genius and his works. Therefore, the instruments shown function semiotically and serve a representational purpose. The seven different collections of instruments are as follows:
Collection of Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este
Collection Paul de Wit, Leipzig
Royal Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments of Berlin
Collection Baron Nathaniel von Rothschild
Instruments (entails various instruments from different centuries)
Collection Karl Zach, Vienna
Colossal Group Paul de Wit
Table 3: Instrument collections in the Germany and Austria-Hungary section
Some of the collections are accompanied by texts that aim at explaining their relevance for music history. The Collection of Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este in room VII, for instance, is accompanied by a “paratext” that emphasizes the historical worth of the collection: “The instruments in this collection, which are invaluable for science, mostly come from the sixteenth and seventeenth century.”
The Royal Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments of Berlin in room XII is described as being of vital importance for the development of German instrument manufacturing:
In the selection made here, the development of German instrument making comes in its most ideal and closed representation. In order to do this, it was necessary to include the instruments from emigrated German manufacturers. A small number of foreign instruments have been included to facilitate comparison.
Besides various instruments, the Collection Baron Nathaniel von Rothschild in room XIII also includes some musical works put on display to keep the entire collection together as a whole, and the instruments in room XIV are different groups of instruments belonging to different centuries. Although the instrument collections are self-contained “exhibitionary entities,” endeavors were made to place them according to historical accuracy and historiographical coherence, as can be deduced from the accompanying descriptions in the catalogue. The collection of Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este, for instance, containing mostly instruments from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, is placed after the Catholic and Protestant hymns and theoreticians from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century.
When Adler’s musico-historical section is compared with the sections of prior international exhibitions that displayed music-related paraphernalia and instruments, it becomes evident that the sections and divisions related to the exhibition of music did not pursue the goal of “displaying the history of music.” The sections dedicated to this topic largely exhibited objects that were related to music history but did not function as agents constructing historical narratives or following a concrete historiographical model comparable to Adler’s. At Vienna 1892, the objects put on display were meant to be assembled in a way that aimed at telling the story of the development of Western music. Of course, this could not be executed consistently due to different converging exhibitionary discourses as well as necessary spatial adjustments, as has been discussed above.
However, Vienna 1892 is essentially marked by the endeavor to represent a visualized historiography based on a model that was intended to become the paradigmatic model for “doing historiography” as a staple methodology in musicology. Ultimately, what also distinguished Vienna 1892 from other exhibitions that exhibited music is not only the transposition of a historiographical model to a visual medium. Depending on the theme of the individual rooms, the objects used for display sometimes function as narrative devices that create meaning through their relation to one another, and sometimes they are intended to be looked at as single isolated objects (e.g., “upstaging” the object by placing it in a separate display case). In this way, specific objects could be staged either to illustrate their historical importance or to add a sensational quality, as was done with relics in the interiors. Furthermore, the narrative devices that either link one object historically to another or “upstage” an object can be comprehended as the exhibitionary equivalent of embedding historical facts in a literary narrative. In the exhibitionary realm, these objects were turned into so-called
res fictae in the creation of “visual narratives” through exhibitionary practices. 3. Halls of Fame: Of Geniuses, Snuff-Boxes, and Other Musico-Historical Anecdotes; the Interiors at Vienna 1892
The national representation of the “canonic” and “culturally most advanced” nations was made visible by means of spatialization and spatial practices within these national departments, which also included the material culture (all kinds of objects relating to music and theater) of the nations. The cultural supremacy of German and Austrian music was visualized via spatial division and the size of the department, which occupied a substantial portion of the available exhibition space in the Rotunda.
Figure 3: Map of the Rotunda, Internationale Ausstellung für Musik- und Theaterwesen: Leporello-Album (Vienna: 1892) Figure 4: Sketch of the Rotunda by Scottish architect George Washington Browne
Within the national sections, interiors dedicated to composers—music history’s national heroes—were installed. These were rooms reminiscent of “little halls of fame” that contained autographs, letters, instruments, and other paraphernalia, such as personal items that established a certain closeness and emotional connection between the individuals on display and the visitors and constructed the biographies of the composers visually. The objects that were exhibited basically had the function of relics. The expression
Reliquien (relics) is even used in the general catalogue of the exhibition, which describes the interiors as “Die Interieurs mit den Reliquien der Tonheroen” (The interiors with the relics of the masters of tones).
By displaying personal objects of the composers, the interiors aimed at forging an emotional and personal bond between the visitors and the represented individual. This facilitated the memorialization of these men and their works and is a very common practice that is rooted in museum culture, historically as well as in the present. This mode of exhibiting “important people” reached its apex in the people museum of the nineteenth century, which will be discussed in more detail below.
In addition, interiors were turned into spaces of cultic veneration, fetishizing the persons on display and showcasing fetish-like objects, turning the practice of exhibiting into a quasi-religious, ritualistic practice reminiscent of a cult.
By employing specific curatorial strategies, such as choosing particular objects and calling attention to them by either upstaging them or adding explanatory texts designed to trigger affective responses, the curators constructed the character of these composers, keeping cultural and biographical myths alive and anchoring them in the cultural memory of the visitors.
Thus, the purpose of these interiors is not merely to present composers that were somehow relevant in the history of music. Their purported ingenuity as well as their humanness both become central expositional themes and give the genius his image: a godlike figure that is still human, literally a quasi-divinity.
As we will see, the demise of the genius is an important narrative element: after a life of emotional struggle and torment, the genius is finally redeemed by death and leaves behind his ingenious legacy for the world to contemplate and venerate. Thus, the interiors dedicated to the narrative of the genius are spaces where cultural accomplishments and great men are celebrated. Of course, it needs to be taken into account that such interiors also served to entertain the visitors. From a dramaturgical perspective, they thus fulfilled the task of amusing the visitors, which was a central element of international exhibitions in the nineteenth century, as has already been explained above.
The people museums that also emerged in the nineteenth century were spaces that focused on exhibiting primarily writers and their intellectual environment, as well as their creative processes and some of their works. The concept of the interior—rooms that represented living rooms—is a type of museal space that was also integrated into international exhibitions (see above). I will therefore engage in a closer inspection of these interiors against the backdrop of their being “spaces of representation” and a derivative of the people museums that tell the stories and biographies of the displayed individuals. In that sense, the curatorial practices (arrangement of the interiors, staging of objects, etc.) that were used to represent these personae are performative, theatrical stagings; they are spatial performances of the concept of the genius.
It is therefore one of my aims to demonstrate that the spatialized representation of the genius within the interiors is a narrative scheme realized through spatial performance in combination with the staging of objects, taking advantage of their semiotic qualities to create meaning. Here, theatrical staging is combined with an “exhibitionary language” that is being created and that communicates with the audience. Furthermore, I want to look also at the intangible aspects of space, namely the presence and relevance of atmosphere and aura in the perception of the exhibited content. I will therefore present source material that contains descriptions of atmospheric and auratic experience, and I will demonstrate how rooms were arranged and objects staged performatively in order to make spaces create atmospheres and objects emanate auratic qualities. I will analyze the interiors within the musico-historical section in the order in which they were arranged, also showing how single objects were upstaged either through the addition of an explanatory text, the choice of objects such as works and autographs that are important for the history of music, or personal items that highlight the biographical, emotional, and personal aspect of the displayed composer. The analyses will dwell on three theoretical concepts from philosophy and literary theory: atmosphere (Gernot Böhme), aura (Walter Benjamin), and “resonance and wonder” (Stephen Greenblatt).
The philosopher Gernot Böhme has published extensively on the subject of “atmosphere.” The concept also plays a role in the domains of architecture and exhibiting, since atmospheres are engendered deliberately and refer to “a spatial sense of ambience”
or an “emotional tinting” of a room. In the creation of a specific ambience or mood, rooms and spaces are “attuned” to elicit the experience of a particular atmosphere. This description derives from atmospheres being made or produced consciously and intentionally. Thus, the production of atmospheres can be compared to what in the realm of theater and performance is called mise-en-scène, not only the performance itself but also the act of “staging” or setting the stage, just as museal spaces are staged and designed to create moods and emotional spaces that are specifically curated to tell (hi)stories.
The purpose of a museal space is the display of objects, and it is therefore a type of space that is representational as well as a space of bodily presence and experience. In order to assign meaning to the artifacts being displayed—and especially to the way in which they are being showcased—we do require the bodily presence of someone who interprets and makes sense of what is being exhibited. Ultimately, atmospheres “are experienced in bodily presence in relation to persons and things or in spaces” and are the “emotional response to the presence of something or someone.”
Walter Benjamin’s eminent and oft-cited essay
on the conception of “aura” is first and foremost concerned with an object’s loss of authenticity when it undergoes mechanical reproduction, as he demonstrates by referring to photography and film, where the auratic moment gets lost. He also explains that the aura of a work of art is defined by the characteristics of unapproachability, authenticity, and uniqueness. Therefore, one of the central thoughts in his essay is the decay of an artwork’s aura and its degeneration due to technical reproducibility, and the real aura is then replaced by a simulated aura. Benjamin’s essay contains three main arguments. First, an object’s aura is a product of its authenticity, due to its uniqueness and originality; hence, “the presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity.” He proceeds by stating that an object’s authenticity is constituted by its historicity, its tradition. It is its historical value that endows the object with genuineness.
Second, Benjamin indicates that “human sense perception” changes in time and throughout the course of history. In the case of historical objects, their “nature” lies in their historical context, the time in which they emerged. However, according to Benjamin, a work of art radiates a “natural aura” due to its “authenticity,” which is owed to its historicity, meaning that knowledge of its cultural context is vital in order for an object to become a work of art or to have unprecedented cultural relevance. In an exhibition, for instance, an object can be provided with an aura, or the “auratic radiance” of an object can be enhanced by means of curating practices and performative display, the so-called
mise-en-scène that is deliberately created. Therefore, display practices can endow an object with an (additional) aura that is produced via a cultural practice and thus manages to reinstall an object’s “pristine” or “natural” authenticity. However, the practice of exhibiting makes possible the production of an aura via deliberate display practices such as showcasing an object by putting it in a display case or presenting it in an elevated position.
Benjamin’s third idea is that a work of art’s aura is always tied to its ritual function.
On the one hand, “the accent is on the cult value”; on the other hand, it rests on “the exhibition value of work.” He concludes that “artistic production begins with ceremonial objects destined to serve in a cult.”
Finally, I will explain the two notions “resonance” and “wonder,” as introduced by the literary scholar Stephen Greenblatt in an essay with the same title. These two concepts can be grasped as the products of an object’s aura when it is perceived and experienced aesthetically, and they genuinely capture the moment of the aesthetic experience of atmosphere and aura when the visitors are confronted with a displayed object (and the emotional response evoked in the visitors). Greenblatt’s concepts illustrate how an aura is always the product of contextualization and curatorial enhancement.
By “resonance” I mean the power of the object displayed to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which—as metaphor or, more simply, as metonymy—it may be taken by a viewer to stand. By “wonder” I mean the power of the object displayed to stop the viewer in his tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention.
In such a way, the object stands as a
pars pro toto for something, an idea that is far larger than the object itself. In a sense, the visitors “engage in a dialogue” with the object; they become like anthropologists engaging in a “thick description.” Thus, an aura, an atmosphere, a halo—or whatever label we wish to assign to this almost supernatural energy that emanates from the object and endows it with a unique quality—is the product of contextual knowledge as well as museal performativity. On the one hand, following Greenblatt’s above definition of “wonder,” it suggests that this effect is the result of its particular mode of display, how it is staged by the curator(s). On the other hand, it also suggests that the deliberate display practices aim at creating the so-called wow factor that strikes the spectator perceptually and emotionally. In the following sections, I will apply Böhme’s, Benjamin’s, and Greenblatt’s conceptions and integrate them into my analyses of the interiors at Vienna 1892 that served to showcase power and sovereignty as well as influential protagonists in the canon of Western music. 3.1 The Habsburg-Lorraine Interior
This interior was placed at the entrance from the south portal, right after the ethnographic section. This sequence was supposed to create a dichotomy between the music and instruments of cultures that were not considered to be part of “Western art music” and the ones that, in contrast, epitomized this idea. In addition, the south portal was the “main entrance” to the Rotunda. Thus, the visitors were confronted with the dramatic binary contrast of the “primitive” followed by the magnificence of the “sovereign” (see also figure 4, which shows the south portal and the adjacent ethnographic section).
Habsburg-Lorraine (Room I)
George Frideric Handel
Johann Sebastian Bach and His Family
Christoph Willibald von Gluck
Wolfgang Amadé Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
Carl Maria von Weber
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Table 4: Interiors in the Germany and Austria-Hungary section
The interior of Habsburg-Lorraine held the first volume of the
Imperial Works, which was decisive for the establishment of the Monumenta Historiae Musices. The main aim of this interior was the representation of the monarchy, which was emphasized by the choice of splendid and pompous decor.
The participation of the very highest imperial family in the maintenance of the art of music goes back to distant times. Historically, the personal participation of Emperor Maximilian I can be proven first with his image. The compilation in historical succession, in which one finds those rulers and members of the royal house, who are either engaged in the practice of music or may be seen as special patrons thereof. It should be emphasized that monarchs from several successive generations of the same dynasty who were composers, such as the emperors Ferdinand III, Leopold I, and Charles VI, is not something that can be found a second time in the history of art and culture. In addition to those represented in the interior, several others from the past and present who had or have a close connection to music would also be worthy of mention.
The interior starts by exhibiting a range of portraits of monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty, followed by Haydn’s
Volkshymne für Streichquartett (National anthem for string quartet), composed as a “work of honor” for Emperor Francis II/I. The interior does not only include various works by monarchs but also instruments, such as the harp of Marie-Antoinette, the empress’s zither, and the piano of Joseph II, as well as various busts, medallions, and letters. The personal objects displayed are not staged in a particular way to elicit visitors’ emotions or reinforce cultural myths of the persons on display. It seems that the curatorial intent behind this interior was to represent the monarchy in a rather “stoic,” detached manner. Here, awe and astonishment are not staged in a way that endows the objects with a cultic quality, as is the case with the interiors of composers, which I will discuss as I proceed with my analysis. It was even expected of the visitors to visit the royal interior with a reverent attitude and demeanor (“die pietätvollen Besucher”) that they would carry naturally when in the presence of sovereignty.
Volkshymne is presented in a separate display case, which is a curatorial strategy for exhibiting something precious or of particular relevance:
As a counterpart to all these works, which are worthy witnesses of the artistic sense and enthusiasm for art of our ancestral ruling house, the composition of a citizen who is at the same time prince in the realm of music, the song which is not missing in the hall of fame of the Austrian imperial family, rested in a separate display case, the embodiment of loyalty, love, and attachment in word and tone:
the Austrian folk anthem in its first transcript by Joseph Haydn from 1797, in its first editions and in all national languages. Just as the master himself enjoyed and rose up in the daily game of the same in old age, so the expression of genuine enthusiasm and patriotism has since been reflected in it. His way sounds simple, but genuine and deep. And, thus, the original was a necessary addition to all the works and memories that were collected in the Interior of Habsburg-Lorraine—without any external pomp, but still shining and shining only because of the inner value and their significance for the history and future of our beloved fatherland.
As can be deduced from the above passage, the display of Haydn’s anthem was an act of patriotism and national pride, representing a symbol of the sovereignty of the Austro-Hungarian empire. What is more, the work is understood to emanate a natural, authentic aura because, for one thing, it is the autograph (endowing it with an authentic and pristine quality), and for another, it is the signifier of national identity. However, both qualities are the result of “ideological baggage.” Hence, it is the knowledge of the object and its history and provenance that “auratizes” it.
Furthermore, the autograph is enclosed in a display case, which is not only a curatorial practice, or for that matter, a “narrative device.” This gives it an artificial aura by highlighting its worth, and it therefore must be “locked up.” From a semiotic perspective, the exhibited object refers to itself, being a piece of music (iconicity), reminds us of the famous and historically relevant “author” (indexicality), and functions as a symbol for nationalism/patriotism (symbolicity).
“Auratic radiance” is the product of either exhibitionary performativity or the cultural and historical knowledge of the object. Often, both of these spheres are combined in exhibitions to add “a halo of meaning.” Furthermore, knowing the history and cultural relevance of Haydn’s Volkshymne and placing it in a display case creates what Greenblatt adroitly calls “resonance” and “wonder,” and this also becomes manifest in the quoted passage above. The displayed object “evoke[s] in the viewer the complex dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged,” and it exerts the power “to stop the viewer in his tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention.” Figure 5: Habsburg-Lorraine interior depicted in Siegmund Schneider, Die Internationale Ausstellung für Musik- und Theaterwesen Wien 1892 (Vienna: Moritz Perles, 1894), 33 3.2 The Georg Frideric Handel Interior
The next interior is dedicated to George Frideric Handel. Here, there are few objects, and his representation is rather limited, which is probably owed to the fact that he is also displayed in the British section, where, next to the original manuscripts of his opera
Giulio Cesare and his oratorio Israel in Egypt, his handwritten will is also shown. The meager display of Handel and the fact that he had not been paid sufficient tribute is also lamented in the reception of the exhibition: “At first it was bewildering to the visitor to find that all objects were not arranged under their periods, and that a court given to the memorials of a great man did not contain all connected with him, such as that of Handel in the German section, from which the visitor had to proceed to the British section in order to see the MSS.”
This interior contains mainly images and depictions of Handel, but also a few works, such as a clean copy (
Reinschrift) of his oratorio Esther, personal copies ( Handexemplar) of his opera Radamisto and his oratorio Saul, a score print ( Partiturdruck) of his oratorio Messiah, and four pages of a facsimile of Messiah, which have a paratext added:
Four sheets of facsimile from the autograph of the
Messiah by Handel, which prove that this oratorio was composed in the twenty-three days from August 22 to September 1741, namely: 1. beginning and 2. end of the first part; the end of the Hallelujah and thus the end of the second part: 4. end of the whole work. From Fr. Chrysander’s recently published complete facsimile edition of the Messiah. 3.3 The Interior of Johann Sebastian Bach and His Family
This interior contains the autograph of his
Wohltemperirte Clavier (Well-Tempered Clavier), a copy of the Kyrie and Gloria of the Mass in B minor (presumably written by his wife, as stated in the catalogue) and the autograph of his Matthäus-Passion (St. Matthew Passion). Some works by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach are also exhibited. Some objects relating to his employment at St. Thomas School in Leipzig are displayed, such as a written complaint to Friedrich August of Saxony in which Bach grumbles about the unfair pay he received. Furthermore, the interior also presents busts, medallions, and images. The German music historian Josef Sittard comments on a portrait of Bach that caught his attention:
We see a splendid picture by J. S. Bach, painted by Hausmann and also owned by Peters. If I draw a comparison with that of Handel, then J. S. Bach appears to me more intimate, more contemplative in his expression, he has a softer streak around his mouth than his sometimes inconsiderate colleague who is used to domination.
A newspaper report on the exhibition makes references to the atmosphere that was created in the Bach interior, stating that it was very demure but still a “sanctuary,” a sacred place containing works of unprecedented relevance: “The sanctuary, which contains Bach’s masterpieces, is separated by a thick cord from the fleetingly passing visitors. … We lift the cord and step into the plain Bach district.”
3.4 The Christoph Willibald Gluck Interior
This interior is also equipped quite modestly. The autograph score of his opera
Alceste is exhibited and includes a paratext elaborating on the relevance of this work for music history and the reformation of the opera genre, for which he became a pivotal figure: “The first performance of this masterpiece took place on December 16, 1767, in Vienna. The score appeared with a devotion to Archduke Peter Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which Gluck developed his principles for reforming opera in detail.”
A few sheets from the autograph of his opera
Orfeo ed Euridice as well as the autograph of a scene from his opera Antigono are also displayed, accompanied by a text drawing attention to his friendship with the writer Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock:
This opera was composed by Gluck in 1754 together with the opera
Il Trionfo di Camillo for Rome. Attached are a handwritten aria from the opera The Pilgrims of Mekka (1746), “Most Beautiful Your Charm” in the keyboard excerpt, for Klopstock’s original copy of the aria from the opera Ezio—“Ecco alle mie catene” (1763).
The friendship between him and Klopstock is a major theme that is staged first and foremost through the display of letters between the two. Furthermore, the interior contains images, busts, and medallions, including a portrait medallion from his grave in Vienna. An added text explains that his grave was renovated in 1846 and that the displayed medallion was replaced by a bronze medallion.
3.5 The Josef Haydn Interior
From this point on, there is a shift in the representation of the composers on display: larger spaces are used to exhibit them, and more emphasis is put on staging “the great masters of music history” through the display of more relic-like objects. This curatorial practice points towards the endeavor to create a visual biography that, besides emphasizing ingenuity, is also interested in rendering a depiction of the individual as a “person.” In a sense, these display practices, which aim at representing a composer not only as a genius but at the same time as a “human being,” are similar to the biographism that became very popular in the nineteenth century, also producing legends and myths and perpetuating them. The common concepts used in the biography of the nineteenth century are the anecdote, the prodigy (
Wunderkind), and the genius (often also a hero), as well as an emphasis on nationalistic aspects. The table below shows how the interior was organized and which aspects and themes of Haydn and his life were exhibited, as well as the exhibitionary devices used and their function as narrative devices.
Stand I: Autographs
Works, letters, documents, etc.
Medallions, personal items
Other composers and writers related to Haydn, writings related to his death
Michael Haydn (works, letters, writings, his baton)
Portraits, busts, medallions (also of people related to Haydn)
Table 5: Spatial and visual dramaturgy of the interior dedicated to Haydn
The interior focuses on his works, especially the symphony and the sonata, as well as on Haydn the person. This room possesses a quality that is cultic in displaying various relics and items related to his death. Here, we are confronted with a shrine-like space that signifies worship and appreciation and aims at displaying compositional achievements as well as the composer’s humanness. The latter is reinforced through the display of objects that elicit an emotional response, which are in a sense “trigger items,” transmitters of affect. Stand III, for instance, exemplifies this by displaying two of Haydn’s snuff-boxes. The effect of bringing Haydn’s humanness closer to the visitors was successfully executed, as these statements reveal: “The snuff-boxes were interesting—they seemed to bring us nearer to the humanity of the composer.”
The display of these personal items can also be grasped as a visualized anecdote, a trivial, private detail that emphasizes the depiction of the person rather than the composer of works. The German musicologist Sittard, who mostly focused on the historical and methodological accuracy with which music history was displayed, could not help but pay attention to the personal items: “That the old master of musical wit was also devoted to the vice of sniffing tobacco is shown by a box whose shape is reminiscent of that used by the schoolmaster and vain dandy in Lortzing’s Wildschütz for his personal recreation.”
Besides displaying people who are somehow related to Haydn, stand V also presents items relating to his death, focusing on the last days before his passing and highlighting the importance of the death of a “great master.” Among the collection of images, there is also a lithography of his tombstone with a complementary text: “Haydn was buried in this cemetery but exhumed in 1820 and transferred to his current resting place in Eisenstadt. The tombstone, renovated in 1842, is still in the above-mentioned cemetery.”
The death of “great composers” is—as we will see throughout this chapter—also staged in other interiors and is a prominent topic in the biographical representation of composers.
A relic that is found in the Haydn interior, amongst images and depictions, is a wax figurine wearing Haydn’s hair and clothing: “One of the odd items depicting Haydn is a small, charmingly modeled wax figurine in which Haydn’s hair and clothes are used.”
In a separate display case, music instruments are exhibited, such as a violin by Jacobus Stainer, whose authenticity is, however, questionable because of a construction and design which does not match the usual types. Furthermore, there is a virginal with a self-playing mechanism belonging to Maria Anna Louise Esterházy and a tortoiseshell violin with a lion’s head instead of a scroll. 3.6 The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Interior
This interior occupies a fairly large area. Its primary theme is Mozart as a child, and it stages him as an ingenious prodigy, which is a very common and popular biographical narrative of Mozart,
but some of his seminal works are also found here. The exhibitionary devices and themes are as follows:
Works, busts, medallions, images, a calendar
Miscellany (items relating to Mozart or his family)
Portraits, statues, a clavichord and one of Beethoven’s pianos
Table 6: Spatial and visual dramaturgy of the interior dedicated to Mozart
Stand I and II focus on Mozart’s compositional and creative processes. Thus, it exhibits parts of entire works that show the orchestration and five cadenzas to his piano concertos collected in a single autograph. In addition, numerous arias from his operas are displayed. The first work on stand II is the autograph of his
Requiem. Stand III shows the autograph of The Magic Flute and his Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551. Sittard comments on this exhibit: “The delicate, clear handwriting, disturbed by its correction, is admirable. The exact opposite of Beethoven’s, which shows changes everywhere.” A peculiar item which can be interpreted as a “visualized anecdote” is also displayed here. It is a calendar with an embroidered cover from his childhood showing the title page: “This calendar was given to Wolfgangl on the evening of January 26 from the Countess Van Eyck. On the back of the title page, presumably from the donor’s hand, is a comment that reads ‘I will remain your loyal friend.’”
Stand IV contains, among other things, a petition to the Archbishop of Salzburg in which Mozart requests his dismissal and a letter to his father Leopold that is written in ciphers and codes and addresses political issues. The letter was deciphered by Georg Nicolaus Nissen. Stand V displays further works, in particular his operas on texts by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Stand VI shows a few playbills from the first performances of some of his operas as well as Leopold Mozart’s treatise
Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (A treatise on the fundamental principles of violin playing, 1756). The images on display also include depictions of him engaging in musical practice together with his sister and his father, such as the famous portrait by Blasius Höfel. Most of the images here show Mozart as a child, but—one can assume that this is part of the curatorial dramaturgy—a portrait by Michael Munkácsy also shows the languishing Mozart before his death, listening to a performance of his Requiem.
Here, the narrative of the great master dying slowly and in agony is perpetuated. A portrait of his last residence is shown next to a medallion from his tombstone that was damaged but later pieced together. The last section of the Mozart interior illustrates his travel clavichord and one of Beethoven’s pianos, which was placed there due to spatial issues (Beethoven’s interior is the adjacent room following Mozart’s). The way in which Robert A. Marr captures his impressions of the Mozart interior clearly demonstrates that one of the main curatorial aims was to stage the narrative of the period of Mozart’s demise and turn it into a sensory spatial experience. However, one cannot deny Marr’s added dramatic tone:
In the Mozart court the visitor felt, as he did in all those assigned to the great masters, that there were so many objects of world-wide fame, that the mere mention of some of them was sufficient to arouse interest in the musician, were he professional or amateur. … In a case lay his “Requiem Mass,” the work which, from the time he commenced it, he felt that he was writing for himself. And one could not help reflecting on the fact, that it was to this great public park of the Prater, on which the exhibition stood, with its large groups of trees and leafy shade of chestnut avenues, the composer was brought by his wife so as to rest his mind from its work on the mass; and as they sat down in a solitary spot, Mozart began to speak of his death, and, with tears in his eyes, said that he was writing the Requiem for himself.
Figure 6: Mozart interior, depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 87 3.7 The Beethoven Interior
This interior has a very clear thematic dramaturgy, ranging from his youth to his adult life and then to his death, and can also be interpreted as the staging of his three creative periods, a common narrative strategy in musicology for depicting the life and works of composers. Within these displayed phases, there are several objects that stage Beethoven as a genius figure and highlight personal aspects alongside his compositional achievements. Different descriptions of the interior reveal that the room exuded a solemn atmosphere, that there was a lingering “mood,” which is described as follows:
As far as the space allowed, Beethoven’s department was furnished in an atmospheric way and housed a large number of more or less sacred memorials. One of the less solemn ones, to start from the back, was Beethoven’s kitchen book, which reminded us of the now common way of realizing biographies. Everyone knows about Beethoven’s hearing problems, and yet how peculiarly terrifying is the sight of the ear trumpet that he used. We have to look at a sheet from Beethoven’s conversation book with different eyes, which indirectly shows us his suffering, but to a certain extent shows the shadow of the speaking master in the counter-speeches of the writer.
What is evidently being portrayed here is the genius suffering from his loss of hearing. Interestingly, however, the display of trivial biographical objects pointing to his humanness was not always received with pleasure and excitement, as the above passage reveals. Still, in terms of curiosity, the displayed items certainly fulfill the task of entertaining the visitor and forging an emotional bond with the persona of the composer. Along these lines, a newspaper article, for instance, reports that the interiors were “a paradise for curiosity and pleasure” (“Paradies für die Schaulust und Neugierde”) and stresses the heightened experience.
It is also interesting how the atmosphere in this interior was described as “solemn,” which shows that one of the curatorial aims was indeed to create a quasi-religious space, a place of veneration, and a place of memory. Following the above passage, we can conclude that the reverent, solemn atmosphere arose from the combination of displaying personal items and works together. Also—and this is very important—there seem to have been certain expectations that either were or were not fulfilled, depending on whether one had prior cultural knowledge of the displayed person. Ultimately, it seems that clichés and historical as well as biographical knowledge were not produced at this site initially but were reiterated and further perpetuated.
The works that were displayed include, for example, a score of his
Missa Solemnis and his String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131, but the last movement is missing (stand II). On stand III, we find a sketchbook to his Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 36, but also various letters and Beethoven’s Heiligenstädter Testament, which is accompanied by a text reading: “Addressed to his brother Karl and—(Johann) Beethoven. It expresses Beethoven’s deeply sad mood, caused by his increasing hearing loss, in deeply moving words; only the thought of art keeps him going.”
Stand IV is dedicated to his life and contains several letters and other documents, such as several pages from his kitchen books and his conversation books, but also a representation of the “genius at work,” depicting him as he composes the
Missa Solemnis. Furthermore, there is his snuff-box and pieces of his hair from when he was still alive as well as from his corpse. Stand V shows his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125, and autographs and copies of his opera Fidelio. Stand VI is mostly dedicated to Beethoven’s death, containing an invitation to his wake, a depiction of his remains being exhumed and buried again, and two famous poems dedicated to his death by Karl Schlechta and one by Friedrich August Kanne. Works found on stand VI are his song cycle An die Ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), op. 98, and his Piano Sonata No. 29 in B major, op. 106, the so-called Hammerklaviersonate. Images and portraits of him displayed here show Beethoven taking a walk, his hands (by Josef Danhuser), his apartment in Vienna’s ninth district Alsergrund (Schwarzspanierstrasse), his ear trumpet, his death mask, and an image that depicts him composing in the forest near Bonn. Scantily dispersed portraits of Franz Josef Lobkowitz and Countess Therese Brunswick can also be found. Last but not least, there is his grand piano by John Broadwood in London.
Stand I: Autographs (Collection Artaria)
Stand II: Autographs (Collection Artaria)
Works, sketchbooks, letters, documents
Letters, documents, hair, medallions
Works, items related to his death
Portraits, his death mask, his ear trumpet
Table 7: Spatial and visual dramaturgy of the interior dedicated to Beethoven Figure 7: Beethoven interior, depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 95 3.8 The Franz Schubert Interior
As opposed to the previous room, this interior is far less spectacular when it comes to the display of personal, biographical items and does not give the impression that it strains for effect. The room is organized as follows:
Stand I: Autographs (Collection Nikolaus Dumba)
Stand II: Autographs (Collection Nikolaus Dumba)
Stand III: Autographs (Collection Nikolaus Dumba)
Works, sketches, letters, documents
Images of his family, medallions
Table 8: Spatial and visual dramaturgy of the interior dedicated to Schubert
On stand I, we have Schubert’s first mass in F major, a
Ländler, the songs “Des Mädchens Klage” and “Des Schäfers Klagelied,” and his Symphony No. 1 in D major. In addition, this stand also displays Schubert’s eyeglasses. Stand II contains his cantata Lazarus, a copy of the first four bars of Beethoven’s fourth symphony, and a piano score of an aria, “Echo et Narcisse” by Gluck. As we proceed, we see his Symphony in B minor, sketches of the third movement, his song “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” and his Impromptu, op. 90, no. 1 in C minor, which has a paratext that indicates his ingenuity by stating that he can come up with ideas for great music in little time: “Quickly jotted down with a pencil; one of the most beautiful piano pieces by Schubert.”
Stand IV shows a fragment (3 bars) of his song “Der Tod und das Mädchen,” a diary entry, some letters, a certificate issued by Ignaz von Mosel, and an invitation to his wake. Stand V offers a glimpse of a contrapuntal study by Salieri in which the cantus firmus is by Salieri and the counterpoint by Schubert himself. This stand also shows a facsimile of “Der Erlkönig.” Stand VI shows images and portraits of his family members as well as an illustrated edition of his song cycle
Die schöne Müllerin (The fair maid of the mill). The last section in this room shows various images and portraits of Schubert and some of his friends. One aquarelle depicting Joseph Hüttenbrenner has the following text added to it: “Was close friends with Schubert and always tried hard to spread his works and win them recognition.” A text added to a lithography depicting Anselm Hüttenbrenner reads: “Was friends with Schubert and showed him unsurpassed loyalty.”
Besides a few letters, documents, and a pair of his eyeglasses, this interior seems to focus on Schubert’s works and creative process; also, there are hardly any anecdotal elements that trigger emotional reactions. In regard to the quality of the images depicting Schubert, Sittard notes:
Schubert shares the one misfortune with Beethoven that most of his pictures and busts are bad; to my regret, I have to confess that the Schubert association has exposed a true deformity of him as a bust. In the special Schubert department, the best is a watercolor painting by Kuppelwieser.
Robert A. Marr concludes his visit of the interiors on a more positive note:
In such an exhibition, where the growth of the musical art in Germany was shown with so much fulness and completeness, it was to be expected that the latest prophet of the art would receive full recognition, and in some special way have his greatness substantiated.
3.9 The “Romantics” Interior
From this point on, the classifications change, and there are no exhibitionary devices listed in the catalogue. However, an image of Meyerbeer’s interior below shows that the objects were not freestanding, such as instruments, and were organized according to stands as in the other rooms. This section of the interiors falls under the category “Romantics,” as stated in the catalogue, and also includes Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, and Chopin.
Carl Maria von Weber
Der Freischütz, Euryanthe, sketches to Oberon, Concerto for Clarinet in F minor
Letters, documents, medallions, busts, sketches of the stage design and decor for
Der Freischütz, his grand piano
Letters, images, busts, medallions, his baton, his travel piano, his stationary
Jessonda, Concerto for Violin, Quartet in A, Concerto in E major, Double Quartet No. 4
Der Templer und die Jüdin, Hans Heiling, Spanisches Liebeslied
Table 9: Romantics, von Weber, Meyerbeer, Spohr, and Marschner Figure 8: Weber and Meyerbeer interior (joint interior), depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 115 3.10 The Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Friedrich Chopin Interiors
The same exhibitionary scheme applies to the interiors below.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Collection of short compositions, Symphonie No. 3 in A minor, op. 56,
Lied ohne Worte in E minor, op. 62 no. 3, Elias
Letters, images, his piano
Song “Mondnacht”, complete score of his Symphony in D minor,
Sechs Fugen über den Namen BACH for Organ or Pianoforte, Manfred (dedicated to Liszt), Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra; Sonata for Violin in A minor (both dedicated to Joseph Joachim)
Letters, images (also of Clara Wieck)
Grandes Etudes de Paganini (transcribed for piano), Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3, Orpheus, Symphonic Poem No. 4, Mazeppa, Symphonic Poem No. 6, Festklänge, Symphonic Poem No. 7, Hungaria, Symphonic Poem No. 9, Hamlet, Symphonic Poem No. 10, Eine Faust Symphonie, Todtentanz
Collected writings (7 vols.), his passport, “Altenburger Album,” letters, patent of nobility (from the emperor), a sable, four batons, wreaths (golden and silver), medallions, an inkstand, a plate, a glass, Liszt’s left hand (marble), Liszt’s right hand (plaster), a walking stick, a smoking set, stationary, images, busts
Polonaise pour le piano, a sketch of Grande fantaisie sur des airs polonais, op. 13
a book for learning Latin, letters, a business card, an obituary and other reports on his death, images, busts, medallions, Chopin’s left hand (white marble), Chopin’s left hand (bronze), his death mask, a bouquet from his funeral, his piano (Pleyel), two cabinets from his apartment in Paris, his piano chair; stationary, a vase, a pianino
Table 10: Romantics, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, and Chopin Figure 9: Schumann interior, depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 125 Figure 10: Liszt interior, depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 139 3.11 Gibichungenhalle
In the exhibition park, apart from the main exhibition in the Rotunda, a separate Wagner exhibition, the so-called
Gibichungenhalle, was installed by the painter and stage designer Josef Hoffmann, who also drew the designs for Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Bayreuth. The Gibichungenhalle depicts the third part of the trilogy the Götterdämmerung. The Gibichungenhalle stood in one of the most secluded spots in the exhibition park and was isolated as much as possible from the other buildings.
With the construction and furnishing of the
Hall of the Gibichungs, the aim was to illustrate, as faithfully as possible, a picture of a German princely house from the first centuries of our era. In addition, the decoration was chosen in such a way that it should stimulate study of the German legend, which unfortunately is not yet as generally recognized as it deserves due to its deep, ethical content. … All ornaments are reproduced as precisely as possible from the grave findings and the oldest art monuments. On the walls, there are trophies and weapons of the landlord and his ancestors, on and next to the frames are household items, adventurous horns, antlers and bones, including the tusks of the narwhal, which has always been talked about so much and which is still often used for defense by the legendary unicorn. The curtains and canopies are made according to the Old Frisian miniatures, which correspond to the old grave finds in their ornamentation and representation.
Figure 11: Hall of the Gibichungs, depicted in Schneider, Internationale Ausstellung Wien 1892, 153
Gibichungenhalle was most certainly one of the visually most impressive sites at the exhibition and did not only create an atmosphere of awe—having Wagner’s great works and relics exhibited there for the celebration of the genius—but also allowed the visitors to enter a fictional world. This site was more immersive than the other interiors, because an entire separate space was created where the design and spatial arrangement did not have to be adapted to the given conditions, as was the case in the Rotunda, where spatial issues constantly forced the curators to make adjustments that also had a negative impact on the accurate historiographical display of the objects.
Upon entering the
Gibichungenhalle, the visitors could dive into a fantastic world of old German myths and legends. As the image above shows, in his design, Hoffmann tried to create an atmosphere that would give the visitors an authentic experience. However, the hall received mixed reactions, as Sittard’s critical remarks show:
I do not want to discuss the question in more detail whether … there was still a “deeply felt need” to build a hall that was “in sacred silence from the profane noise of the exhibition” and a
pêle mêle of autographs, letters, busts, portraits, etc. by Wagner and others, which are also framed by some props as used in the Nibelungenring. In addition to the real Gibichungs wandering back and forth, we see the world ash “Yggdrasil,” on which the squirrel “Ratatösk” constantly runs up and down to report on the damage that the fierce worm “Nidhögg” has done to the roots; we also see Siegfried’s fur, Hunding’s high seat and his drinking horn, which, like the other horns in prehistoric times, at least as stated in a Viennese paper, were formerly made as those for oxen and bulls. But so that modern art does not go empty-handed and industry draws some benefit from the old world of legends, there are a number of recommendation cards from comb maker Rudolf Scharf in Vienna next to the drinking horn, from which Siegmund tastes his spouse’s sister Sieglinde, on which he recommends himself as a specialist for drinking and hunting horns. It has as little to do with the actual purpose of the Hall of the Gibichungs as Hoffmann’s decorative designs for the “Magic Flute.” As I see in the explanation, the aim “with the construction and furnishing of the Gibichungenhalle was to create the most accurate image of a German princely house of the first centuries of our era.”
As opposed to Sittard’s cynical remarks declaring this exhibition site to be redundant and in the service of capitalist interests, and therefore set up for pure entertainment and neither for the display of music history nor the purpose of educating and instructing the visitors, other voices praise the entertaining element of the hall and find it quite original, stressing that Wagner’s popularity led to the establishment of a separate “museum” dedicated to his honor:
The way in which Richard Wagner received the honor he deserves is very refreshing and appealing. He is the most preferred even in death; he was given his own exhibition building, the so-called “Hall of the Gibichungs” by Prof. Jos. Hofmann, the
Nibelungen decoration painter. Hofmann captured R. Wagner’s essence and work with a genuinely German and genuinely artistic sense and brought it to a lively representation that we Germans value in Wagner: the awakener and keeper of the great old Germanic folk myths … The treasures of the rich memories of Rich. Wagner exhibited therein, numerous portraits, drawings, decoration sketches, Nibelungen pictures, scenarios from the operas, his opera manuscripts, letters to J. Hoffmann and souvenirs of all shapes, give this Gibichungs-Wagner Hall its special interesting content and value, and we have to admit that this hall is one of the best-performed, most distinguished, and most valuable exhibition works.
The aspects of theatricality and performativity come out very strongly in this museal setting, because when compared to the musico-historical section in the Rotunda, the
Gibichungenhalle represents a fictional world that one enters to “travel back in time” and experience old German legends and myths. Via spatialization, this experience was also heightened through the addition of the proper decor. The Gibichungenhalle managed to represent Wagner and his works—which is one of the themes covered here—but also represents an old German legend through visualization—which is the second theme. The atmosphere—or the mood—that is created in this space also follows a different aim than the atmospheres created in the interiors in the Rotunda. Of course, the exhibitionary devices and objects in the Gibichungenhalle that intend to illustrate Wagner’s greatness as a composer are set up to represent and enhance the idea of the genius. However, the main atmospheric domain that precedes all other stagings here and gives this space its “mood” is the visualization of a fictional world.
Images and portraits of Wagner
Images and portraits of characters from
Der Ring des Nibelungen
(Some of the images in this gallery are for sale)
Sketches and stage designs from Bayreuth
Die Zauberflöte, Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Der fliegende Holländer, Tristan and Isolde, Lohengrin)
Playbills, costume designs, medallions
Images and stage designs
Parsifal’s spear (first performance) and a goblet
Works: Autographs and sketches
Der fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Lohengrin, “Schusterlied” from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Parsifal and Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg
A baton, letters
Images from the theater in Bayreuth
Playbills, Wagner’s collected writings, vol. 1
Program of a memorial service for Wagner by the Wagner Society in Vienna
A bowl and a plate depicting scenes from
Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg
A silver wreath
A personal profile of Wagner
In Front of the Hall
Colossal bust of Wotan (for Sale)
Table 11: Exhibits and visual dramaturgy in the Gibichungenhalle
Generally, the representation of composers and exhibiting of their biographies (personally and professionally) in the form of the interior received mixed reactions, as we can glean from the sources that report on the exhibition. When composers are exhibited along with their surroundings, however, the purpose of exhibiting for its own sake gets lost. The object itself becomes secondary, and what becomes relevant instead is the object’s relation to the honored person, which is representative of a “personality cult”:
This characteristic feature of simultaneity in the creation of the exhibited objects, which gave them the designation “exhibition,” however, ceased when such expositions were no longer an end in themselves, but served as a means to another end. This other purpose was the cult of personality, which has recently gained momentum. If a greater interest was to be gained in a celebrated personality, all objects relating to the celebrated person were collected and made available for public inspection. The nature and usability of the exhibited objects were irrelevant; what gave them interest was only their connection with the celebrated person. And so those collections that were open to general viewing under these conditions were called either “exhibition” or “museum,” depending on the designation the exhibitor gave them.
As illustrated above, the separate Wagner museum united the concept of entertainment and instruction, which was a guiding paradigm at many world fairs in the second half of the nineteenth century (as already discussed above), with museal conventions that were prominent around the same time. For that matter, all the musico-historical sections and departments at Vienna 1892 share the same characteristics shaped by the exhibitionary discourses around that time and attempt to visualize music history via spatialization and the display of objects that tell stories to create “visual narratives.” Ultimately, Vienna 1892 is not only a paragon of the nineteenth-century world fair but also a paramount event for the history of Western music, the subsequent inception of Austrian musicology in 1898, and the establishment of the musicology department under the auspices of Adler.
The results of my analysis show that—by adapting Adler’s musico-historiographical concept of periodization to the visual domain—Vienna 1892 displayed music history in the form of “visual narratives,” an amalgamation of visual and spatial strategies as well as historiographical concepts (e.g., chronology, style periods, etc.). First, composers were staged in specifically designed interiors that aimed at representing them artistically as well as personally, which was accomplished through the staging of their biographies. Here, parallels can be drawn between their visual biographical representations in the interiors and their representation in written biographies around the same time. After all, biographism was not only a very popular genre but was also comprehended by musicologists as a historiographical strategy.
Within these interiors, visual narratives were created by means of exhibitionary devices for putting the objects on display and enhancing the exhibitionary effect. This also had an impact on the perception and aesthetic experience of the visitors, as may be seen from the comments on the exhibition in various newspaper reports as well as other primary sources. The exhibitionary strategies employed and the exhibitionary devices used are similar to the narrative devices deployed in written music histories, because they embed the exhibited objects in a context comparable to literary narratives that tell stories of music history.
The interiors were also characterized by their thematic focus. As my analyses have shown, these interiors were spaces for worshipping the idea of the (suffering) genius, which they made visible not only by representing the creative phases of the composers as well as their intellectual environment but also by focusing on their life periods before death. The narrative themes in these interiors were also enhanced by the display of different sorts of relics (e.g., personal belongings or other paraphernalia, as well as objects related to their death).
My conclusion is that these exhibitionary strategies served to create spatialized images of music history for the purpose of memorializing a canonized music history from a Eurocentric perspective. However, on the contrary, it needs to be taken into account that the display of music history at Vienna 1892 also aimed at showcasing “music historiography” in a scientific fashion in light of the subsequent birth of musicology as an academic discipline in 1898. The display of music history based on scientific paradigms also became visible in Adler’s attempts to transpose his model of periodization—a history of music based on style—to the exhibitionary realm, but this could not be fully realized because the spatial configurations of the Rotunda forced him to make adaptations and alterations. My conclusion is that—besides being a cultural event that aimed at instructing the visitors as well as entertaining them—Vienna 1892 served the purpose of advertising musicology as an academic field. In addition, the event’s ambition was to showcase the abundant musical and cultural history of the displayed European nations and bear testimony to their cultural development.
Cover picture: Viennese Exhibition of Music and Drama, photograph of a watercolor painting by
Philippe Chaperon (1892); by courtesy of Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv Austria.