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Musical MeaningToward a Critical History$
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Lawrence Kramer

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228245

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228245.001.0001

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Franz Liszt and the Virtuoso Public Sphere

Franz Liszt and the Virtuoso Public Sphere

Sight and Sound in the Rise of Mass Entertainment

Chapter:
(p.68) 4 Franz Liszt and the Virtuoso Public Sphere
Source:
Musical Meaning
Author(s):

Lawrence Kramer

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520228245.003.0005

This chapter attempts to sketch out some of the cultural meanings of a virtuoso with a concentration on Franz Liszt, who defined the model that subsequent virtuosos have been expected either to emulate or to reject. Technical wizardry and sexual magnetism set the Lisztian virtuoso sharply apart from the Orphean singer. A virtuoso's instrument carries no metaphysical privilege; it is a machine that must be manually operated and yet spiritualized. The virtuoso becomes a magnet for the multiple ambivalences that have haunted the concept of appearance itself in relation to the body, theatricality, deception, and rhetoric. The virtuoso concert can be understood historically as part of a long series of performance genres devised to attract a large public. Many of these genres originated in the social and cultural turmoil of Paris during the Restoration and July Monarchy. The virtuoso concert combines the contradictory functions of ceremony and carnival. It exacts disciplined attention from the audience along with awe at the performer's preternatural skill and frees the audience to take personal pleasure in the spectacle of the virtuoso's face and body, which is a medium of identification and desire.

Keywords:   Franz Liszt, virtuoso public sphere, Orphean, virtuosity, Harmonies du Soir, rise of mass entertainment

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