Geert Woltjer, Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe

Analysis of song 12

In this song the flowers tell that the poet should not be angry. Just as "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai' (poem 1) this poem starts with a nice natural setting.

This song is written in Bes, clearly related with the Es tonality of song 11. But the first measure has not a very clear tonality. The first two tones suggest Ges (Perrey, 2002: 200 calls it a German-sixth chord), but the notes after that suggest a diminished chord; it is a Ges augmented sixth chord. Combined with the downward after beat movement of five sixteenth notes creates a dreamy atmosphere. Just as in song 1, the bass solves a dissonant by decreasing half a tone, while both songs have arpeggio's.

The second measure already has a clear harmonic definition of Bes, with I-V7-I. During m. 4-5 the harmony goes through Es (that is V of Bes, but with an added C would be a c7-G7-c-F7-Bes.

The whole song has a structure A-A'-A-A'' and a postlude. The A' (m. 6-11) deviates in m. 8-9. Harmonically it goes to Fis7 (A V on Bes, half a tone higher; what a surprise when the poem is about the whispering flowers!) and then to a B in the left hand with a Fis chord in the right hand (is the same as the Ges chord at the start of the song!), while the voice as Des and Ces as tones, that are enharmonically the same as the B and Cis of the piano (why not both written in Fis, solving to B?). In the second half of m. 9 the fis chord is solved towards B (with the B written in the voice enharmonically as Ces). The "Blumen" get an accent by being the longest tones in the voice, the surprising harmony, and the almost highest note in the piano during the whole piece (except for the G in m. 20). The appoggiaturas give the dynamics towards the contrast from the whispering flowers to the silent poet. When we go to the silent poet, the harmony continues with: C7-F7-Bes, i.e. II-V-I in Bes, where the jump from B to C7 is a surprise (an E7 in between would have made it more fluent). Recognize that in stead of the first of the five sixteenth notes in m. 11, the second one is held a quarter and gets an accent.

Starting in m. 11 the A part is repeated with only tiny variations. But starting from m. 16 both the harmony changes a lot and the tempo becomes slower. The start of the voice melody resembles the start of song 4. The Bes7 at the end of m. 16 goes to G instead of Es. Perhaps better formulated, the passing note Fis becomes the leading tone towards G. Then it goes from G to D7 to g minor, where on "blasser" the Ges chord of the start of the song is used as a passing chord from g towards F.  This, including the parallel fifth in the piano and song, is completely outside the traditional harmony principles. So, the use of the Ges chord, that was a VI in m. 1, 6, and 11, is here just a passing chord, and reaches the dominant chord of the song F, that must be solved towards Bes by the piano.

In the postlude the harmony seems to be c minor, with only F in the bass till m. 23, where the second half of m. 22 has a Cis instead of a C, generating a chord of three equal size 3 intervals. The piano postlude between m. 23 and 28 is to a large extent the same as the harmony in m. 7-13 (see Perrey, 2002: 205), but deviates from it in m. 24, generating a seventh chord at the end of this measure.

In the second beat of m. 22 the left hand has an F, while the right hand has an Es chord. This Es is the start of a redefinition of the harmony back to Bes. Es is the IV in bes, so the harmony becomes IV-V7-I. The second half of m. 24 seem to be all appoggiaturas of m. 25 leading to a C7 in m. 25, or can be seen as the same chord as the first measure of the song. The last chord in m. 24 is a diminished chord, that gets a small accent; this suggests that this chord has an important role. This changes to something like a D7 in the second of of m. 25  (with the bass Es just an appoggiatura towards the D in m. 26), where the second half of m. 26 is enharmonically almost the same as the second half of m. 24. Starting from m. 27 the harmony is clearly defined in Bes, with I-V7. Recognize the downwards movement of the melody during those measures, after the two more or less chromatic rising lines in m. 23-24 and 25-27.

There are also some nice long lines in the song. In the voice we see a line starting in m. 16 with B- Bes (m. 17)-C (m. 17), Des (M. 19) down to C. Then we have in m. 20-22 in the top a short line Ges-F-Es. In m. 23-24 there is a rising soprano line C-D-Es-F, followed by a longer one Bes-C-D-Es-F, and finished with a downward line in m. 27-28 D-C-Bes, that finally goes with jumps downwards till the end. In m. 16 a line starts in the bass: Bes-As-G-Ges (m. 19)-F-Es (m. 23)-D. In m. 24 a bass line starts: Ges-F-E-Es-D.

Finally, the motif Ges-F has an important role in the piece. It starts in the bass in m. 1-2, then is found in m. 6-7, is used enharmonically in m. 9-10 (soprano of piano), is used at the end of the voice part in the piano bass (m. 19-20), in the second half of m. 24, and finally gives the solution in the piano postlude in m. 26-27 in the bass line.