Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe by Geert Woltjer
Analysis of song 1
The text has two strophes with the same structure. The first two lines of
each strophe sketch spring, while the second two lines tell that love
broke forth (first strophe) and this love has been confessed (second strophe).
So, the central theme of the poem is longing and desire.
The central theme of longing and desire can be found clearly in the piano introduction of the
- Harmonically the first four measures on the chords b-Cis7-b-Cis7
give the suggestion that they are the IV and V7 of the tonic fis.
But the tonic is never reached. Is there a better way to suggest desire?
- The appoggiaturas create movement. They are
both available at a small scale, such as ais en gis in measure 1. The
development of the melody with large intervals, such as the jump towards the
appoggiatura gis, reinforces the effect of the dynamic effect of the
appoggiatura. Also longer dynamics are being created with
appoggiaturas on a larger scale. For example, the bass D in measure 1
is going towards a solution with the bass Cis in measure 2. But be aware
that this Cis is the foundation of the dominant that never gets a solution.
- The suspensions (i.e. the first Cis starts before the
measure and is suspended) till after the start of the second beat) provide
delays that intensify the feeling of longing.
- The start with the dissonant Cis-D is surprising and
When the singer starts, there is a fundamental change.
The text is dreaming about the month may, a blissful state, not immediately
related with longing. The music becomes more direct:
- The harmony is very harmonically with a major tonality in A (II6-V7-I)
- The bass line has no appoggiaturas anymore, but is very
much like a classic bass line
- The singer also has no appoggiaturas and moves towards the
- The melody is much more horizontal, and always ends at a
harmonic rest point. In the piano accompaniment you find something back of
the old melodic jumps.
When the love comes in, harmony changes again (m. 9), but it
is again a tonic harmony:
- e, Fis, b (m. 9-10) is IV-V7-I in b
- Then g, A, D (m. 11-12) is IV-V7-I in D; much more expressive, because
it is major
- The main notes in the right hand rise from B in m. 9 till Eis in m. 13.
- There are appoggiaturas again.
In the piano interlude the high Gis is the start of the transfer to the
longing introduction: b-Cis7-b-Cis7
The second strophe is the same as the first one. Only the piano postlude differs
a little bit from the introduction. It could almost go continuously, but the
bass tones at the end of each measure are added (adding extra appoggiaturas,
reinforcing the longing).
The last B of the piano is interesting; it is the seventh, in contrast to the
Gis in the other version with the B only as an unimportant tone. The end implies
longing. Harmonically, part of the solution is found in song 2.