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Transcript of Frauenliebe und-leben
The Year of the Song
Robert Schumann (8 June 1810 – 29 July 1856) was a German composer and an influential music critic.
One of the greatest composers of the Romantic era.
Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He was assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.
Often referred to as "the year of the song" in Schumann's life, the year 1840 saw the completion of at least 137 songs, including the famous Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman's Love and Life), written to poems of Adalbert von Chamisso, a German poet.
Schumann's impending marriage to Clara Wieck (1819-1896) (hard won after a long legal battle with her father) was largely the inspiration for his burst of creativity; this seems especially clear in the case of Frauenliebe und -leben, which takes as its subject the earnest devotion of a wife and mother.
There are eight poems in his cycle, together telling a story from the protagonist first meeting her love, through their marriage, to his death.
1. "Seit ich ihn gesehen"
("Since I First Saw Him")
Image by Tom Mooring
Frauenliebe und-leben (A Woman's Love and Life) A Song Cycle by Robert Schumann
Importance of Chromatic Lines
most often heard in the piano accompaniment, though there are notable instances of its appearance in the voice part.
chromatic line is usually three to four pitches in length, sometimes as many as five.
although the chromatic line is a generic musical device often used for harmonic purposes this a chromatic line takes on special significance, both as an unexpected musical sound in this context and as a symbol of underlying complexity.
the ascending chromatic line motif is conveying aggressive and energetic emotions, while the descending chromatic line motif is expressing calming emotions.
Schumann returns to his blocked chord system which forms the harmonic and rhythmic foundation for he climatic poetic statement "ich will ihm dienen, ihm leben, ihm angehören ganz" (I want to serve him, live for him, belong to him entire.)
Ascending and descending chromatic lines are effective in building and releasing musical and dramatic tension.
This technique occurs in the climax of the song. The bass line’s ascending chromatic line motif (mm. 25-27) conveys the woman’s feverish excitement as she proclaims that she will “serve him, live for him,” which is directly followed by the descending chromatic line motif (mm. 27-30) in which she gives herself completely and finds herself “transfigured in his light.”
Form: ABACA'ʹ+ coda ('= that which is altered from original)
Key: E flat Major
Vocal melody doubled in the piano
Piano should sing along with the singer but should also bring the voice out in "duet fashion."
First Cadence: Measure 9: Imperfect Authentic Cadence
4. "Du Ring an meinem Finger"
("You Ring Upon My Finger")
The first musical motif of Frauenliebe und -leben is a vocal melodic figure first heard in mm. 2-4 of “Seit ich ihn gesehen.”
This motif, 5ˆ- 6ˆ- 5ˆ -1ˆ, is the thematic core of the work. Harmonically, the fifth scale degree is supported by tonic, the sixth scale degree by subdominant, the return to the fifth scale degree is supported first by dominant then tonic, and submediant anticipates the first scale degree.
This harmonic progression, ends in a deceptive cadence, which conveys the woman’s unexpected bliss. Before making its most significant reappearance in the final postlude of the cycle, the thematic core motif recurs in varied forms in the third, fifth, and seventh songs.
Form: Strophic, two strophes + coda
Strophic form: Song structure in which every verse (strophe) of the text is sung to the same musical tune.
Key: B flat Major
Schumann gives the accompaniment more independence and prominence but the piano still acts largely as a support for the voice in Frauenliebe und -leben with its repeated chords and frequent doubling of the vocal melody.
Juxtaposition to Chromatic Lines
6. "Süßer Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an"
("Sweet Friend, You Gaze")
8. "Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan"
("Now You Have Caused Me Pain for the First Time")
Secondary motifs, though less structural and melodious than the thematic motif, provide solidity and balance between songs.
This secondary motif occurs at any time the protagonist speaks of the husband.
Which features an accented upper neighbor which delays the resolution to tonic in the melody ( 7ˆ - 2ˆ -1ˆ )
This conveys a sense of longing and anticipation, which reflects the woman’s feelings toward him.
In the final measures of “Süsser Freund” the secondary motif occurs as a sort of codetta.
In addition, the accented upper neighbor which delays the resolution to tonic again creates a feeling of anticipation, well-suited to impending childbirth.
Form: AABA + coda
A sections are uneven in bar length but constitute the main melody of the song. Each of the three A sections has a different set of words.
This B section provides a contrast to the verse sections by using different chords, a different melody, and a shift in the focus in the lyrics as well as the key.
It provides an interlude between verses.
Key: G Major
There is then an abrupt shift from B flat Major to G Major moving from the fifth song to the sixth.
Schumann’s construction certainly reflects the unfolding drama.
A life-changing event separates the two groups: the woman’s marriage at the end of the fifth song. (Changes to G Major-closely related keys)
The first five songs thus take place before her marriage while the last three songs constitute her married life. (Closely related keys to B flat Major)
Return of 1. Seit ich in gesehen: the thematic core motif returns in the piano postlude of “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan,” the last song of the cycle.
D major of the previous song gives way to a somber d minor as the woman looks upon her now-dead husband, the vocal line becoming increasingly lower.
The song closes with a solo piano quotation of the first song; however, the return is fittingly incomplete.
The abrupt tragedy of this last song leaves the cycle somewhat poetically unbalanced, but this is clearly part of Schumann's creation. The death of her husband is sudden, unforeseen, and without cause; the end of the cycle is equally unprepared.
Schumann brings the cycle full circle, closing the work as it began.
Key: d minor with a return to B flat Major at the end
Frauenliebe und -leben is rondo-like overall primarily due to the thematic core motif and the method of its recurrence throughout the cycle.
The motif reveals a large-scale alternating pattern between the initial theme and contrasting material. The rondo form, which Schumann pairs with the complexity of romantic love throughout is fitting as the cycle’s overall structure.
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Ostwald, David. Acting for Singers: Creating Believable Singing Characters. Oxford: New York, 2005. Print.
Grove, George, and Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.