Rhythm & Verse: A Literary and Music Salon

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"At our salon there is no parade of celebrities. People of various professions, generations and classes simply assemble here. They are people who participate in intellectual and in literary life or who wish to do so.
Art lovers." ~ Rahel Varnhagen, Salon Hostess, 1820 through 1833, Berlin

Sophie's Music Salon
• Who came before us
History Resources

Who came before us
A brief history of literary and music salons

Tea and

Tea and Talk . . . Jewish women and their salons - a progressive driving force
From the 1780s as the Enlightenment was in full swing and French salons were already a traditional social institution, German Jews and non-Jews began to mingle (over tea-tables) "in Berlin where Jewish hostesses of charm, learning, and wit furthered the cultural exchange between statesmen, philosophers, and Romantic artists" (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org). Jewish women in Berlin and Vienna formed a disproportionately large number of these cultural salons as a response to gender and anti-Semitic restrictions. Some of them "were able to use their salons to exert significant influence on artistic and political affairs. However, "non-Jewish guests continued to express anti-Semitic views in private, and rarely reciprocated the invitations of their hostesses" (Daniel Harkett's review of 'Jewish Women and Their Salons: The Power of Conversation' by Bilski, et al).

The first and most distinguished Berlin salon was hosted by Henriette Herz, a highly educated and multi-lingual woman, an admirer of Goethe and the Romantics. Soon the salon of Rahel Levin Varnhagen overshadowed Herz's. Rahel, although well educated in literature, was more captivated by people's thoughts, feelings, opinions, and perceptions.

Amelie Beer and Fanny Hensel were also influential salonnières. Moses Mendelssohn's daughter, Dorothea, introduced Victor Hugo to the German reader through her salon. In Vienna, one of the most esteemed salons was hosted by Fanny von Arnstein. The Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, and his lover, Lady Hamilton, frequented her salon.

Fanny von Arnstein created an atmosphere in which artists and musicians,
writers and poets, nobles and intellectuals, both Jewish and non-Jewish, could socialize in comfort and discuss the ideas of the day. . . Her salon became the center of a cooperating salon network of intellectual and musical women in Vienna
Petra Wilhelmy-Dollinger

And, if you happened to have joined Fanny's sister, Sarah Levy, at her Berlin musical salon, you certainly would have encountered the brothers Wilhelm and Carl Philipp Bach.

In the late 19th century, you would have longed for an invitation to the salons of Ada Leverson, who welcomed Oscar Wilde to her home, and salonnière, Genevieve Straus, as well as the salon of journalist, novelist, and art critic, Berta Zuckerkandle. Berta's wide circle of friends in the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire included Rodin, Klimt, and Max Reinhardt. Berta "fought for nearly half a century for the recognition of modern Austrian art, cultural and political dialogue between Austria and France, and humanist causes" (Elana Shapira - Jewish Women's Archive). Gustav Mahler met his wife, Alma Schindler, at her salon. The story of the Mahler marriage provides for good reading. It was a difficult and tempestuous affair (http://www.alma-mahler.com/engl/on_tour/01_a_life_full_of_passion.html).

And, then, of course, there is Gertrude Stein. Salonnière extraordinaire in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Her guest list regularly included Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Matisse. Her intimate Saturday evening gatherings at 27 rue de Fleurus hosted speakers, performers, and art - a meeting of the minds that would help define modernism in literature and the arts. Most anyone was welcome. If you had been a visitor, surely Gertrude would have greeted you with an "Entrez-vous," and, as you were shown inside, you may have witnessed Picasso and Hemingway sparring over the most profound ideas of the age. But she wasn't the only game in town. American Natalie Clifford Barney hosted luminaries such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot to her Paris home.

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