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Thursday, May 08, 2008


This is my last blog entry (huzzah!), and today we are discussing Schumann (the crazier of the two Schu's) and his lovely piece, Widmung.

The larger form of this piece is Ternary, your typical A B A, and this form is made doubly obvious by the seemingly strange key change from Ab major to E major. Actually, this is closer than it first appears. Schumann must have read about Beethoven and his crazy chromatic mediant fetish; E major is an enharmonic respelling of Fb major, the flat major VI to Ab's tonic I. 

The key change itself is a text-painting device: as we approach the key change (remember, down a third from tonic) the singer's line is "you my grave, [down] into which I cast my grief." And then we change key, using a nifty common-tone modulation, Ab-->G#, and the accompaniment becomes less florid and more supportive, grounded. The singer explains that "you are rest, you are peace, you are bestowed upon me [down] from heaven." The accompaniment is more solid and chordal - if it were minor, I would say it's solemn like a funeral march - the major gives this much more hope and joy, even though we're kind of still in the death-theme textwise.

Then, just as cliche and text-painting-y, the key changes back (up) to Ab (with another common-tone modulation, C#-->Db) on the perfect line, "you raise me lovingly [up] above myself." Oh Schumann. How cute is that. (PS - anyone else hear the Josh Groban song with that line?)

A final interesting note is that one Schu here steals from another Schu - part of Schubert's "Ave Maria" is quoted in the last measures, twice. The do-ti-do-mi-re-do of that melody is set in a ground-bass type of ti-la-le-sol-do falling progression. The chromaticism describes an otherworldly serenity and happiness, as if the singer is still in disbelief at their luck and contentment.

And that's all for this piece. I will almost miss blogging with you guys. Have a great summer, all! Ciao! 

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