Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe by Geert Woltjer

Analysis of song 13

The poem of song 13 is about a dream, where the poet is crying when his love is in his grave, when his love had forsaken him and also when everything was OK (The discussion of this poem is based to a large extent on Perrey, 2002: 139-141). This implies that despair is so intense that it is does not depend on the behavior of the woman in his dream, or worse: the desolation increases with the woman's behavior improving. The idea is related with poem 4, when the poet must cry when his love says “I love you”. The same term “weinen bitterlich” is expressed in this context, although in song 4 only the end is sad.

The poem is composed around three motifs: dream, weeping and awakening . "Traum" and "Tränen" alliterate, where "Tränen" has a relation with "Weinen" . Furthermore, the poem is completely about an inner world, as "ich" and "mir" suggest, where "Mir träumte" is a passive form that suggests that the dream comes from outside. All strophes have a lot of phrases in common. They start all with "Ich hab' im Traum geweinet, Mir träumte ..." and line three start with "Ich wachte auf, und...", with both an accent both on "auf" and  "und", i.e. changing the metre when the text is changing from dream to reality. And after this phrase there is in the third strophe an unexpected effect that shows that the tears are not dependent on the behavior of the woman.

Very characteristic for the song is the separation of piano and voice during the first two strophes. The pauses between the piano and voice parts are also extremely important for the atmosphere of the song. The character of the piano part in the first two strophes is also completely different from that of the voice: low, staccato, a clear harmony. Only during the third strophe the voice is accompanied and the piano and voice become one, including the voice being integrated in the harmony. Also characteristic is the horizontal, static structure of the song, like this was also the case in songs 2 and 4.

The song is in es minor, and ends in Es major. Es is related again with Bes of the song before. When the song starts, the harmony is undefined; the voice is just a lamentation of a repeated Bes, moving up till a Ces on “weinet”. This could be just the Bes tonality of the song before. Then the piano responds, also with Bes in the top melody, and in other places of the harmony. But the harmony is clearly defined cadence in es minor: I-V7-I-V-I. And the implicit melody is mainly in the alto voice: Bes (or Ges?), As, Ges, F, Ges. The piano has to be even less loud than the P of the voice, where the piano is staccato in contrast to the lamento of the voice.

Then, when the poet is dreaming that his love is in her grave, the voice melody is also in es minor, with a Fes in the melody, making the melody a little bit sadder than the downward movement already suggests. The Fes is surprising after the F in the "melody" of the piano before. The piano then has an interlude defined in Ces, with the Ges having a prominent role, as it had in the voice before. When the voice says “Ich wachte auf” (m. 7) the ces minor becomes a Ces major chord by raising the Ges to a G. This creates a feeling of expectation. Then, Ces major is confirmed by the piano. When the tears come in, in m. 9, the chord becomes an as minor chord, taken up by the voice, where the Es gets an accent and seems to go to a Bes chord (suggested by the D on “her”. Recognize that “herab” has an upward movement in the melody. The piano ends with a Ces – Bes closure, where the Ces seems to be nothing else then an appoggiatura towards the Bes.

The second strophe (m. 12-22) is the same as the first strophe. But the third strophe shows a big difference. Both the piano and voice reach the highest pitches during the third strophe. The piano starts in m. 22 with the melody that the voice had in the other strophes and does it in full Es harmony (I-IV-I). Perceive that on the first beat of m. 24 the rise in of the melody towards Ces is combined with the lowest note in the whole piece, As, in the bass. When the voice starts, the piano integrates the lamento in a clear harmony. The voice then continues without interruption till the end of the strophe, and has a lamento that has much longer lamento's than the short ones in the first two strophes. The harmony under the text “du wärst mir noch gut” in m. 27 becomes an As7 chord, that solves towards Des in m. 28. The words "Ich wachte" in m. 28 are unison. At the word “auf in m. 29 the Des chord rises to an Esses7 chord towards an Es7 chord. Perrey (2002: 146) calls these chords even "dissonant clusters". On “immer” in m. 30 there is a dissonant that solves towards a Des7 chord with a sharp dissonant and a raised As. The Des7 goes to the Ges chord in m. 31 that through a Des goes to Es7, on “Thränenflut. The voice reaches its highest pitch in m. 31 on "Thränenflut".

The Es7 is first lengthened with an intensified dissonant seventh that gets an accent by a sudden sforzato, and then solved towards As in the piano postlude. Then there is one and a half measure silence, during which the listener will be aware that the As chord is not really a solution; it should solve in es. This happens in m. 35 by repeating the first piano interlude in m. 3-4. And after waiting almost two measures the song is finished with V-I, the repetition of the last two chords in bar 35-36. Recognize the melody line starting at the Fes of the voice on "Tränen" in m. 31, through the Es-Des-Ces-Bes-As-Ges-F-Ges (or even Es?). This would imply a clear line in the third strophe, that starts with the Es of the piano in m. 22, rises till a high point of the Fes of the voice, and may end in the same Es where the piano started at the end of the piece. But because of the staccato's, the long pauses, and the pianissimo, it feels as if the song fades out, with the strong emotions of the dream.