Geert Woltjer, Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe

Analysis of song 7

The poem has again two strophes of four lines, with each two lines rhyming. The poem tells that he bears no grudge, but it is obvious that he is very angry. The poem is full of irony. The contrast between "strahlst in Diamanternpracht" and "kein Strahl in deines Herzens Nacht" is very strong. In the second strophe, the poet sees in his dream how miserable she is. But is this true? Probably not, it is only a way to tackle the stress of his loss by becoming angry, just as the projection of his love in Maria in the Dom in Köln is also a way in the process of coping with the loss of his love to another lover.

Schumann added some repetitions of "Ich grolle nicht" and "Ewig verlornes Lieb" in the Heine text. This has the effect of accentuating this statements, and because the meaning is quite the contrary it reinforces the irony of the poem.

The song has the same type of bass line as song 6. It may have been the symbol of the Dom in Köln, certainty and stability in song 6, but here it has more the effect of a fatal and difficult to stop movement.

When the voice starts with "Ich grolle nicht", the motive is the same as song 4, m. 5-6 "deinem Mund". On "Herz" the A in the voice is lowered to an As. This gives the II in C a lowered fifth. The effect is reinforced by a prolongation of the As till almost the end of m. 3, solving towards the V7 only for a short moment, while the piano is already at the start of the second beat in V7 towards C. The As of the voice is a dissonant with the doubled G in the base.

The harmony of song 7 is only a little bit related with that of song 6. Song 6 ends in e, while song 7 obviously starts in C. Harmonically, the song  is clearly in C. It starts with I-IV-V7-I, and then continues in m. 5-12 with C7, F7, a7, d7, F7, b7, d7, G7, (D7), G F 7 b7 and ending in the tonic C in m. 12. Recognize the overlapping seventh chords. They give an enormous tension to the process, especially in combination with the decreasing doubled bass line just downwards the C major scale (already starting in m. 4) , continuing an active higher till G and then rising partly chromatically towards the tonic C again. The seventh chords subtly go from one into another. For example, the chord C7 in the second half of m. 5 the B as the sharp 7 of the C chord solves into an A and the bass G goes to F, while the staying e becomes the new sharp seventh of the F chord. Then the e moves into g, while the bass goes to E, the fifth tone in the a7 chord. Then in the first beat of m. 7 the E becomes a D, where the remaining C becomes the seventh of the chord, and the G is adjusted to an F.

The voice has its melodic accents on the words "verlornes", both by being the highest tone and being the seventh of the chord at that moment. The world "Lieb" in m. 6 and 8 has a rather low tension, while immediately afterwards the tension is increased by the sharp dissonant in the right hand piano.

At the start of 'Wie du auch strahlst: in m. 12, the harmony changes to a minor ( V-I-V-I); so, at the moment when the ironic suggested happiness starts, the harmony becomes minor. In 'es fällt kein Strahl' in m. 14 the harmony rises rather suddenly to b minor (V-I-V-I). When the song changes to 'Das weiss ich längst', the harmony suddenly starts to get pressure through the G7 and goes back to C in m. 19. The tension seems to be released.

The second strophe is the same as the first strophe till m. 27 (as comparable with m. 9), where the serpent is easting her heart.  The same process of overlapping seventh chords as in m. 5-12 is used in m. 24-29: C7, F7, a7, d7, F7, b7, d7, G7, b7, e7, F#, d7, with only the last part changed.  The piano has very high tones, the harmony has a lot of minor chords that have been colored with higher and lower notes. When "Ich grolle nicht" is repeated twice at the end of the song (not in the poem!), the voice goes down to G and jumps to the lowest note in the whole piece as the last note: "Nicht". The piano harmonizes E7 in m. 30 below "Ich grolle", suggesting a movement towards a, but it goes through F and G7 to the tonic C. Is the anger released a little bit. The piano postlude suggests this, with an extremely clear C major setting, a very simple cadence. But the right hand melody and the change of harmony after the beat instead of on the beat, and especially three low forte chords in the depth at the end suggests more over shouting of the frustration than a real solution.