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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Clara Schumann's "Liebst du um Schönheit"

Chosen Passages:
First Passage: m. 11-18
Roman Numeral Analysis:
m. 11-14
D Flat Major I: I, V7, I V7, I, i6, viifulldiminishedvii/V, V
m. 15-18
D Flat Major I: vi, (ii43), viifulldiminished43/iii, iii6, IV, (VL G, B natural, D natural), viifulldiminshed43, I6, ii, V7, I (after cadence: V7 leading to next phrase)

Secon Passage: m. 27-first beat of m. 36
Roman Numeral Analysis:
m. 27-30
D Flat Major I: I, V7, I, V7, I, i6, viifulldiminished43/V, V
m. 31-33
D Flat Major I: vi, (ii43), viifulldiminished43/iii, iii6, IV, (VL G, B natural, D natural), viifulldiminished43, I6
m. 34-first beat of m. 36
D Flat Major I: ii6, vi64, ii7, V864-753 (with two passing chromatic chromatically altered chords inbetween the i64 and V7, analyzed literally as VL (G, A D) viifulldiminished7/V), I

Structure of the Song: Modified Strophic Verse
m. 1-2 Introduction
m. 3-10 A
m. 11-18 A’
m. 19-26 A
m. 27-36 A’’
m. 37-41 Coda

Clara Schumann’s song “Liebst du um Schönheit” is a modified strophic form, which means that material in each verse is slightly altered from the original verse. The song follows a structure of Introduction, A, A’, A, A’’, Coda. A is a contrasting period that ends in a half cadence with an F Major chord that suggests movement as a V to the key of the sixth scale degree, B Flat minor. However, each time the V/vi happens in the A sections, Clara Schumann modulates back to the key of D Flat Major immediately after the F Major chord and before entering the next phrase. These modulations occur in the last two beats of m. 10 and m. 26. A’ is a contrasting period ending in an imperfect authentic cadence in the tonic key of D Flat Major. A’’ is also a contrasting period ending in a perfect authentic cadence in the tonic key of D Flat Major. The song does not modulate outside of the tonic key of D Flat Major. Every period begins with the same motives. The jump by the fourth in the four quarter notes in the third beat of m. 3 to the second beat of m. 4, and the do, ti, la, sol in the quarter note, dotted quarter note, eighth note, half note, half note rhythm are the motives that are always repeated at the beginning of each period (or section), with slight rhythmic alterations to adjust to text. A’ and A’’ are more similar to each other than A, and the two A sections are identical, with differences only in text.

The song “Liebst du um Schönheit” conveys the singer’s feelings of the way the singer feels about someone that loves her. If the person loves her for shallow things such as beauty, youth, and riches, then the singer does not want to have a loving relationship with this person. However, if this person loves the singer for who she his and for the sake of love, then the singer wants to start and maintain a lifelong relationship with this person. The love of the song is especially felt in m. 27-36. The contrasting period of m. 27-36, A’’, is when the singer declares in the text:

If you love for love, oh yes, do love me!
Love me ever, I’ll love you evermore!

Prior to A’’, the text describes the singer’s feelings about if this person loves for the wrong reasons such as riches and physical beauty. A’’ is special in that the text discusses for the first and only time in the piece about if this person loves the singer for the right reasons, for the sake of true love. Clara Schumann makes use of a number of compositional techniques to portray this shift in the text. First, the composer marks “Bewegter” above m. 27 and lasts for the rest of the piece. This marking means more emotional, which means that the rest of the piece should be played more emotionally, naturally. Clara Schumann helps the performers with the written in “Bewegter” by using musical markings where emphasis and text painting is needed. Some examples include m. 27-28, where she writes a hairpin that crescendos to “Liebe” in the text, and m. 31, where she marks accents over the notes with the text “Liebst du um Liebe,” which emphasizes the words translated “if you love for love” and suggests more emphasis on those words. The greatest example in this excerpt is m. 34-36 where the text is “dich lieb ich immer dar!”, translating to “Love me ever, I’ll love you evermore!” m. 34-36 is the musical and dynamic climax of the piece, with the voice m. 34 marked forte and to ritard to first beat of m. 36. Both the singer and pianist free to take as much time as desired to create a full sound and make this section of the piece emotional and emphatic for love. Furthermore, the piano part in m. 34-35 goes through a strong, firm and chordal harmonic progression of ii6, vi64, ii7, V864-753 (with two passing chromatic chromatically altered chords inbetween the i64 and V7, analyzed literally as VL (G, A D) viifulldiminished7/V) to emphasize the section further. The chromaticism of m. 35 especially requires extra attention, for chromaticism is always special in the realm of classical music, and nothing else like this has occurred in the song before. The chromaticism is portraying the beauty of love in the midst of the climax, so it must be musically respected.

Other examples of Clara Schumann using chromaticism include m. 15-16 with the harmonic progression vi, (ii43), viifulldiminished43/iii, iii6, IV, (VL G, B natural, D natural), viifulldiminshed43, I6. Chromaticism is used to emphasize “Liebe den Frühling” (love the spring) in m. 15. The piano echoes the same progression transposed diatonically a third down to the tonic key of D Flat Major in m. 16. This same progression is used in m. 31-32, but rather than spring, it is emphasizing love with the text “Liebst du um Liebe, o ja mich liebe . . .” (If you love for love, oh yes do love me!).

From a performance aspect, the performers should feel free to caress any cases of chromaticism in the song with emphatic love, perhaps with a warm, long (as in held for every ounce of its note value) and round sound as if it were the most beautiful thing in the world. Another aspect of the piece worth noting is that the dynamic marking of the A (m. 1-10) is piano, then A’ introduces mezzo forte in m. 15 and lasts through the second A (m. 19-26). Then A’’ and the coda are forte. This dynamic growth overtime makes the text more meaningful. More specifically, it is emphasizing the shift from the singer talking about the person loving for the wrong reasons to the talking about the person loving for the right reasons. Performers should take careful note of this gradual dynamic growth and make the arrival of A’’ a joyful experience for both themselves and performers and the listeners. On a final note with aspects of performing techniques, the piano part of this piece is important and is not simple accompaniment. The voice functions as the one to speak the news of the love of the person in love with singer, and the piano functions as the musical and rhythmic drive to make the text of the singer more important and meaningful by helping harmonically (with chromaticism in m. 35, for example) in key words in the singer's text. Therefore, there are a number of things the pianist must keep in mind when performing the piece. First, the pianist should make sure the eighth notes are driving the song rhythmically and musically, for the piano part is always in constant motion and is vital to keep the drive of the vocal line for the coming of A’’ through the dynamics and text and the arrival of the final climax. Also, the pianist must be aware of important text and harmonic changes such as the aforementioned chromiticsm in m. 35 so he or she can emphasize that area musically with the singer when such an occasion comes. Next, the introduction must begin the previously described musical drive of the piece smoothly by the pianist starting slow then working quickly but seamlessly his or her way up to the tempo before the introduction ends. Finally, the pianist must conclude the piece beautifully, for he or she is tasked with playing the final five measures without anyone singing.


Anonymous said...

I love you to death for putting this analysis online!

Anonymous said...

MM. 1 - 4: I V7 I V7 I V7 I V7
MM. 5 - 6: I i V964/853

MM. 7 - 10:
this is a sequence which leads to the DOMINANT of the relative minor
(very ambiguous)

Db+: IV ii viihd7 iii I vi7
ii III
Bb-: VI iv iihd7 v III i7
iv V

I argue for the interpretation of Bb minor here (though not confirmed by a perfect cadence) because it makes more sense:
1) Bb minor melodic descending melody line.
2) more realistic and recognizable roman numerals, including a predominant (iv) to dominant progression at the end of the sequence.
3) seeing the V chord in m. 6 as a possible pivot, the result is VII in Bb minor, which is an extension of the descending pattern (VII - VI - v - iv)
4) even more convoluted (probably wrong) could be that the sequence

Ambiguity is HIGH here though. Note the G-natural's in m. 9 which on first listen appear as though they are about to tonicize Ab (V of Db), but fail to do so.

At measure 10, the F major triad (Bb: V) has an Ab, Eb, and Gb re-instated resulting in a common-tone "micro-retransition" where the C remains common and the F chord becomes a DOMINANT 7th of the key of Db.

If anybody wants to add or correct any of this, please feel free to do so... I was actually looking this up to see if anyone had analyzed mm. 1-10.

Brittney said...

This is an incredible analysis of Schumann's setting. Thank you both for being so thorough!