Geert Woltjer, Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe
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 song:
- 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 increasing tension.
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 tonic base.
- 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.