art songs

Art song

An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one singer with piano or orchestral accompaniment. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs. Aficionados of the genre consider art songs (when written by composers who excel at text setting, lyrical vocal lines, and beautiful, supportive accompaniments) to be among the highest forms of art, unsurpassed in sophistication, subtlety and dramatic truth.

Although categorizing a piece of vocal music as art song rather than as another type of song (such as a folk song, or an aria) can be difficult sometimes, most art songs are

  • settings of lyric poetry
  • not part of a staged work (such as an opera or a musical)
  • intended for performance as part of a recital or other relatively formal social occasion

Exceptions can be found to any of these rules. Although piano accompaniment is usual, the singer may be accompanied by instrumental forces of any number, including a full orchestra. A guitar, a harp or a string quartet are some of the more common accompaniments. Songs may be written to be performed in a group to form a narrative or dramatic whole, comprising a song cycle.

A folk song can form the basis of an art song, but a composer must reinvent it with respect to one or more of form, harmony, melody, rhythm or sonority. Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten are two composers famous for their arrangements of respective American and British folk songs.

An art song can be in any language, although English songs, French chansons, German lieder, Spanish canciones or canciones líricas, and Italian canzoni are the most numerous. The Austrian composer Franz Schubert is considered the greatest art song composer of all. Despite a brief life, Schubert created an impressive output of some 600 lieder, including "Der Erlkönig", "Die Forelle", and "Gretchen am Spinnrade" as well as the two cycles, "Winterreise" and "Die schöne Müllerin".

In the Philippines, the people are fond of their own version of the art song that is known as the Kundiman, exemplified in the works of Nicanor Abelardo, Francisco Santiago and their contemporaries.

Even though classical vocalists generally embark on successful performing careers as soloists by seeking out opera engagements, a number of today's most prominent singers have built their careers primarily by singing art songs, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Quasthoff, Ian Bostridge, Matthias Goerne, Susan Graham, and Elly Ameling.

Prominent composers of art songs





Spanish 19th century Composers of Spain include:

20th Century Composers include:

among many others


Eastern European




See also

External links

Search another word or see art songson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature