Friday, December 18, 2009

Ländler and deutscher, part I

The Ländler can be specifically located as a folk or common dance at least as early as 1700. Its music was strongly violinistic, very simple in its harmonic construction, and relatively slow in tempo (Litschauer, XI). Sometimes used as a wedding dance for couples, it featured figures with intertwining arms (the more sophisticated urban salon version in the "Strassburger" of the late 18th and early 19th centuries is shown in this blog's logo graphic). [added 5-19-10: Walter Deutsch notes that the "Strassburger" was a favorite dance in French cities in the first decades of the 19th century [56].] These figures were so characteristic that they gave the name to the contredanse allemande in the 1760s, not any specific style of music. In the dance manual of Bacquoy-Guidon (1785), for example, two pieces of music are labeled "contredanse allemande": one is in 2/4 meter, the other in 3/8. The meters and tempi are described on p. 47 of the manual.

And the Ländler figures have a deep history--the Ländler number in the film version of Sound of Music shows elegant and romantic uses (though the tempo is a bit fast). As little as five years ago Laura and I learned many of the figures in connection with the Texas two-step, the Cajun jig, and even the slower versions of six-beat swing.

In general, one finds stereotypical early 19th century Ländler styles more often in Schubert's early dances. Here is D365n23:

In the graphic below I have rewritten D779n13 as a Ländler.

The manner of dancing during this time period was flexible, but according to Walburga Litschauer, the most common format was for couples to dance for a while in Ländler-style, then close the dance with a waltz (that is, going about the room along line of dance doing the repetitive turning figures, or walzen, that we associate with the later waltz) (XI). (By this time, practices varied in different cities, but in Vienna the familiar waltz developed by "breaking off" (Litschauer) from its role as ending promenade to become an independent dance.) Among variants: couples might dance for a certain period, then join a larger group for a square or round-dance figure, then break apart again into couples, often with a different partner. Some versions of the dance involved the traditional hopping figures of rustic or pastoral dances, or -- in the cruder versions -- stamping of the feet.

"The Ländler was already taken seriously by Viennese society [in the early 1790s]. By 1818 one can trace several variants of this middle-class dance in the repertoire of upper-class house balls, where it was often danced in rural costumes. Because of the decorative character of the arm figures, the 'Steierische' enjoyed great popularity at these festivities." (Litschauer & Deutsch, 50; my translation).

Here are links to two pages with the scores for characteristic (old-fashioned) Ländler by Beethoven: WoO11; WoO15.

Litschauer, Walburga. Introduction to Franz Schubert. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Series 7, part 2: Werke für Klavier zu zwei Händen, Band 6: Tänze I. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1989.
Litschauer, Walburga, and Walter Deutsch. Schubert und das Tanzvergnügen. Vienna: Holzhausen, 1997.
Deutsch, Walter. "Dörfliche Tanzmusik im Biedermeier am Beispiel der Steiermark." In Boisits, Barbara, and Klaus Hubmann. Tanz im Biedermeier: Ausdruck des Lebensgefühls einer Epoche, 51-72. Proceedings from the Symposium Musizierpraxis im Biedermeier: Tanzmusik im ländlichen und städtischen Bereich, Graz, Austria, 26.-27. März 2004. Series: Neue Beiträge zur Aufführungspraxis, vol. 6. Vienna : Mille Tre Verlag Robert Schächter, 2006.