Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ländler and deutscher, part II

The deutscher Tanz, or just Deutscher, is harder than the Ländler to pin down. It was probably a generic term for German dancing styles in the later 18th century -- Mozart's sets of deutsche Tänze, K. 509, 600, 602, 605, and 606, for example, include music that sounds in some cases like simplified (or metrically unsubtle) menuets, in others like Ländler, and in still others like 3/4-meter versions of contredanses. By Schubert's time, there was very little difference between menuet and deutscher. It was only after Schubert's death that the familiar, stereotyped form of the waltz arose, mostly thanks to the efforts of Lanner and Strauss, sr., in the 1830s and 1840s. It was also during that period that the title deutscher disappeared in favor of Walzer.

From the vantage point of the late 1820s, the "Strauss waltz" is essentially a sped-up Ländler -- very probably it would be most familiar to someone at that time as the "waltz" that typically closed a dance (Litschauer, XI). Before 1830, however, the deutscher was danced in much the same way as the Ländler: a promenade onto and around the room, a series of dance figures for couples, and a concluding "waltz" around the room along a line of dance (Litschauer, X). The only real difference was tempo.

If there is anything like a "typical" deutscher around 1820, D365n31 fits it. Note the rhythmic variety in melodic gestures and accents, the occasional but by no means obligatory use of the oom-pah left hand figure, and the processional "tutti" passages. Also consider how easy it would be to recast this as a menuet in the style of Haydn or Mozart.

In the graphic below, I have rewritten D779n13 as a deutscher. The tempo is marked as faster than the Ländler version in yesterday's post; if an entire dance was to be done in the circular turns we now associate with the waltz, the music would most likely be a deutscher.

Note that the actual D779n13 is neither typical Ländler nor typical deutscher. Perhaps one of the reasons for its distinctive charm--and motivation for either Schubert or the publisher to include it in D 779--is exactly that exquisite balance of types that would still have been familiar to an audience in the early 1820s.

The history sketched in these two posts is sufficient to the purpose here. It should be understood, however, that any history combining music and dance will be complicated, in this case all the more so because social dance fashions changed by the decade throughout the period in question, or roughly 1760-1840. Beyond this caveat, the one point I would like to emphasize is that histories of dance musics can never be written adequately -- or, in my view, with even minimal plausibility -- in isolation from the dance.

Litschauer, Walburga, ed. Franz Schubert. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Series 7, part 2: Werke für Klavier zu zwei Händen, Band 6: Tänze I. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1989.