Marie Sumner Lott. 2015. The Social Worlds of Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music

Ivanova, Velia

The serious nature of nineteenth-century domestic social activity, even activity that might appear to be solely leisurely and playful at a first glance, is at the center of Marie Sumner Lott’s recent book, The Social Worlds of Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music. Through this notion of serious leisure Sumner Lott weaves together an absorbing discussion of a multitude of composers, performers, and locales. She bases her work around the central idea that the oft-discussed retreat of the middle class into the domestic sphere in the first half of the century—a retreat mostly owing itself to active government depoliticization of salon culture across the continent—led to a situation in which bourgeois and upper-class men “needed spaces in which they could socialize together without compromising their social standing” (14). No longer able to gather under explicitly political auspices with the same ease as before, many turned to music as a reason to congregate and socialize. Thus, Sumner Lott contends, sociable, leisurely activities became serious business.


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August 18, 2022