Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II by Philip Mansel - review by C A R Hills

C A R Hills

Take Me To Your Liedder

Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II


Yale University Press 713pp £30 order from our bookshop

There were literally thousands of lieder, or art songs, written for voice and piano in German-speaking lands in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but many of them share a common mood. What this is might be explored by looking at one famous song, Schubert's Frühlingsglaube (‘Faith in Spring’), his only setting of the poet Ludwig Uhland. ‘Now, poor heart, forget your torment!’ sings the poet. ‘Now must all things, all things, change.’ In spite of the vernal words, the song feels autumnal or elegiac; the flattened parallel sixths of the piano prelude give a feeling of dragging weariness which is then imparted to the simple A-flat-major singer’s tune, supported now by subtle and discreet harmonies; and the piano will have the last word in final chords both troubled and assuaging. It is almost as if the consciousness at the centre of the song is excluded from the renewal the words describe.

The words of the poem are naïve and express universal sentiments, but the work of art that Schubert made has a simplicity which is won from deep thought and introspection. Twenty-three when he composed the piece, Schubert set this poem in the very year it appeared, so it must have

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter