Aspects of cyclical structure in Schubert's "Schwanengesang"




Reintjes, Mikki

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Schubert's Schwanengesang has never been understood as a song cycle in the same way as Die Schone Mullerin and Winterreise. Lacking a cogent narrative structure or unity of musical style, Schwanengesang has traditionally been considered a collected miscellany of Schubert's last compositions in the Lieder genre. Yet an examination of both the musical and poetic structures for the Rellstab and Heine halves of the manuscript reveals that the case is not quite so simple. There is considerable evidence to lend support to the thesis that the manuscript represents two musically and poetically integrated song groups. This thesis analyzes the musical and poetic structures of the two halves of Schubert's manuscript. The first half provides an examination of the Rellstab group in light of a recent and important study of the compositional practices in early 19th century song cycles, a subject which has traditionally received little scholarly attention. The second half of this thesis concentrates on the more complex and fascinating issue of Schubert's selection and treatment of poems from Heine's Buch der Lieder. Such an analysis reveals that Schubert's treatment of Heine's poetry is not only thoroughly characteristic of the Romantic world view, but furthermore, that the Heine Lieder should be rightly regarded as a musically and poetically integrated cycle of songs.