Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Augustinian Conflict in a Schumann Song

The ninth song in Schumann's Dichterliebe is another Augustinian Conflict. The setting for this song takes place during a wedding celebration where everyone is dancing and having a great time except for the singer since his girl is marrying someone else:



Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen, (There is a flute and violin,)
Trompeten schmettern darein. (Trumpets blare away)
Trompeten schmettern darein. (Trumpets blare away)

Da tanzt wohl den Hochzeitreigen, (There dances in her wedding)
die Herzallerliebste mein. (The love of my heart)
die Herzallerliebste mein. (The love of my heart)

Das ist ein Klingen und Dröhnen, (There is ringing and droning)
Das ist ein Klingen und Dröhnen, (There is ringing and droning)
ein Pauken und ein Schalmei'n; (of drums and shawms)

dazwischen schluchzen und stöhnen (amidst it sobbing and moaning)
dazwischen schluchzen und stöhnen (amidst it sobbing and moaning)
die lieblichen Engelein. (Are lovely angels)


I recopied the lines that are doubled because the pattern changes: the first two strophes are [ABB] and the last two are [AAB].

In each of the four stophes there are three lines of text but the dance music groups into larger units of fours. How do we hear the extra grouping? Hearing each measure as a beat in a larger hypermeter the following pattern emerges:

(4,444)(4,446)+(4,444)(4,446)+(4444)

The opening four measure vamp seems like an introduction, but if we hear it as a downbeat then the entrance of the singer feels swept within the larger structure and is more consistent with the augustinian conflict in the setting.

Like several other songs in this cycle the harmony oscillates, here between phrase groups in D minor and G minor like this:

(D minor)(G Minor)+(D Minor)(G Minor)+(DGVV)

In the last phrase the alternation happens at the level of the phrase rather than at the level of phrase grouping, and the last two phrases prolong the V of G which also sounds like a picardy third in D minor. Great stuff.

For a completely different view of this song listen to track 12 of the 1999 recording called "Love Fugue" by jazz pianist Uri Caine. Caine brings the poet's angst into a setting that could evoke a late-millennium wedding reception. This witty presentation is wordless and generally light on conflict, but the progressions around the circle of fifths played by this ensemble causes one to hear with greater accuracy the jazz in the original Schumann.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...