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A couplet ( French "couplet": pair of lines) is a multi-stanza funny-ambiguous, political or satirical song with a distinctive refrain . In music, the couplet also denotes the stanza parts of a rondo that alternate with the recurring refrain or ritornello .

The Wiener Couplet is a stage song in the plays of the Alt-Wiener Volkstheater by Johann Nepomuk Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund .


The word couplet has been used since the 14th century to describe the intermediate stanza of a soloist between choral refrains .

Since the 17th century, couplet gradually reduced its meaning to a stanza with a cheerful content. In the rondeau of French instrumental music of the 17th / 18th centuries Century, couplets are the alternating sections between refrain or recapitulation (also grand couplet ). The couplets, sung in public, were created at the Paris fairs .

The couplet has been a vocal genre since the 18th century and has been integrated into various theater genres, such as vaudevilles , opéras comiques , singspiele and antics with singing as well as operettas of French and Viennese provenance. Structured by instrumental rituals and divided into stanzas of different verse lengths, which - performed on the same melody - close with a pointed refrain. The content of a couplet is frivolous or intellectual and treats topics with mocking distance. In the case of chansons, however, the focus is on experience and mood.

19th century

The Viennese couplet in the first half of the 19th century is a special form of the couplet within the old Viennese folk theater in which the actor steps out of the role and begins to interact with the audience. It found literary perfection in the works of Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy . The daily additional stanzas of such couplets sometimes exposed the actors to a duel with the censors in the Metternich regime (cf. Metternich's system ).

The later Viennese operetta towards the end of the 19th century also contained couplets, in which the emphasis shifted from text to music; the music became more important and the lyrics less binding. Examples are the couplet 's is my custom from Prince Orlofsky from Die Fledermaus (1874) by Johann Strauss , the couplet by Kálmán Zsupán from the operetta The Gypsy Baron or the couplet Oh, I just kissed her on the shoulder in Carl Millöckers The beggar student . In contrast to the classic Viennese couplet, which is usually reserved for male characters, the operetta couplet is also performed by women. In deliberate departure from the French operetta, composers of the Viennese operetta after Johann Strauss such as Leo Fall and Emmerich Kálmán chose alternative names in the early 20th century. Felix Salten used the couplet in his Viennese folk play Der Gemeine (1901).

20th century

In connection with the Music Hall and Revue after 1900, the couplet experienced a wedding as a crowd puller. On stages e.g. For example, in Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London and New York City , events from everyday life and politics became objects of satire with couplets. During this time, for example, at the Berlin cabaret Die Böse Buben, the couplet Und Meyer looks at me friendly (M: Leo Fall , T: Rudolf Bernauer ) was created, which was performed by the Viennese comedian and operetta singer Joseph Giampietro and by Kurt Tucholsky around twenty years later was called the "classic Berlin couplet".

After the First World War, the couplet was used by Karl Kraus ( The Last Days of Mankind , 1915; Couplet Macabre , 1919; Infernal Couplet in Die Insuperchlichen , 1928) and by Hanns Eisler ( Couplet vom Zeitfreiwilligen , 1928). Even with Eisler, the couplet sounds different from what we are used to from the composers of the 19th century, in the music of The Last Night by Karl Kraus, for example, in marching rhythm and in a minor key.

Walter Mehring used the art form of the couplet as well as the Dadaists ("Berlin simultaneous: first original dada couplet"). The term couplet was soon replaced by the term chanson and was mainly used in cabaret and on cabaret stages, where it was an independent vocal number in addition to the chanson. With the lifting of censorship after the First World War , it was able to develop a new critical edge. Karl Farkas , Fritz Grünbaum and Armin Berg have distinguished themselves as authors . By Joachim Ringelnatz there is a run-couplet (1923) Kurt Tucholsky described in 1919 the couplet - here already with the characteristics of the songs - in his essay The Art of couplets in the Berliner Tageblatt (18 November 1919):

“The couplet has its own laws. First of all, it has to be completely at one with the music (which is a great difficulty), and then it has to be born out of the spirit of language, so that the words only roll in such a way that the slightest stagnation occurs nowhere, that the tongue does not Has difficulty reeling down the phrase smoothly. "

For authorship, he demanded "disposition, taste and great ability".

In political form, the couplet at the theater was then continued primarily by Bertolt Brecht as a “song” in the “ epic theater ”. In Brecht's case, the actors stepped out of the action in the " alienation effect " and made reflections in front of a curtain and with "song lighting" (e.g. in the "Song about the inadequacy of human striving" in the Threepenny Opera , 1929). Brecht wanted to raise the audience "above the level of consciousness of his characters", Brecht's fellow writer Friedrich Wolf called it "the direct involvement of the audience in the game".

Otto Reutter was a master of the Berlin couplet . He has written over a thousand couplets and performed countless couplets in the 1920s and 1930s, some of which became popular words like Mir ham 'se dismissed as ever , in fifty years it will all be over . Paul Preil composed and performed in Leipzig .

In Hamburg, the couplet gained great popularity thanks to the appearances of popular vocal humorists such as Hein Köllisch , the Wolf brothers and Charly Wittong . They covered common hits with new, funny texts, mostly in Low German . Even today, every Whitsun edition of the Hamburger Abendblatt gives a sample of the couplet De Pingsttour (Köllisch), from which the verses An de Eck by de Steenstroot (Wittong) or An de Eck steiht'n Jung mit'n Tüdelband (Wolf / Walter Rothenburg). The folk singers also sold their couplets on the street as Fliegende Blätter ( Köllisch couplets: 10 different ones for 5 marks free ).

In the Bavarian version of the couplet, Karl Valentin got to the bottom of folklore and skillfully played with the rules of the language (Chinese couplet, futuristic couplet). Other Bavarian couplet artists were Papa Geis and Weiß Ferdl .

Theodor W. Adorno gave the following view of the couplet in 1936/1937: “The intended unconscious process, probably also performed by the audience, is therefore first of all that of identification. The individual in the audience experiences themselves primarily as a couplet ego, then feels they are in good hands in the refrain, identifies with the refrain collective, enters it by dancing and thus finds sexual fulfillment. "

After the Second World War , the couplet was profiled by Georg Kreisler , Gerhard Bronner and Helmut Qualtinger in Vienna cabaret, for example in Der g'schupfte Ferdl and Der Wilde mit seine Maschin ' . The couplet “ Papa will fix it” from the program “Spiegl vorm Gsicht” led to the resignation of the then National Council President Felix Hurdes in 1959 .

The couplet AG (founded in 1991 under the name The couplet madness ) is a Bavarian music cabaret group that has set itself the objective of maintaining the traditional Bavarian couplets in conjunction with cabaret and to revive.

The couplet is not suitable for the film because there is no interaction with the audience.


Web links

Wiktionary: Couplet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Musiklexikon
  2. Bosl, Karl: Life pictures for the history of the Bohemian countries , Munich, 1974, p. 271
  3. Tucholsky: The Couplet
  4. Joachim Ringelnatz , running step couplet.
  5. ^ Günther Mahal: Auktoriales Theater - the stage as pulpit , Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1982, ISBN 3-87808-575-3 .