In an era of heightened patriotic fervor following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Parisians packed concert halls to hear performances of Handel's oratorios and Bach's organ works. At the same time, both royalists and republicans called for the re-evaluation of the once detested musique française of the ancien régime.
Musicologist Katharine Ellis examines these unlikely aspects of cultural life in the new Republic as part of a broader study of the early music revival in nineteenth-century France. This revival gives us a vivid sense of how music's cultural meanings were contested, distilled into dominant visions, and then often revised. Peppering the century are famous fakes, pastiches and other creative negotiations between past and present. Descriptions of these phenomena by contemporary witnesses reveal how dissent could run along social, religious and political lines, and why certain genres became idealized while others were disparaged.
After providing an overview of trends and contexts throughout the century, Ellis examines specific repertoires that evoked unusually spirited advocacy and debate. She explores the attempts to revive French Baroque stage music in the 1870s; arguments on the appropriateness of Palestrina's liturgical music; the reception of Bach and Handel, and their relation to French choral activity; and, finally, musical "Frenchness." Four case-study chapters focus on key debates and repertories stretching from Adam de la Halle to Rameau, via Josquin, Janequin, Palestrina, Bach and Handel.