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Thursday, May 08, 2008


Schumann's "Widmung" is a song roughly translated to "Dedication" which features the setting of a poem by Friedrich Ruckert. The text of the poem in relation to the musical exposition of the ideas is best studied after the large-scale musical form is established. "Widmung" is in A B A form, and although it is reminiscent of rounded binary form, the B section consists of completely independent harmonic material including a different key altogether and thus the piece fits the definition of a ternary form better. More specifically, this is a form of simple ternary because the sections of the piece do not take on any additional musical forms. The text alone is mysterious and beautiful. The poem can be looked at both in a subjective and objective manner and most certainly through a mix of the two. The undefined "you" that the author is speaking of is portrayed mainly in a positive light and is often made the center of the speakers existence and source of joy. There are a few verses however that speak of the "you" of third party in quite the opposite light. The contrast is so stark that the speaker associates the third party with death and even goes as far as blaming this party for his death while only a few verses earlier he was praising it as if it was heaven. The nature of these lyrics and the lack of clarity as to whether the author was even referring to a person or an object, feeling, desire or other aspect of existence.

The text however does give ample material for a setting to music that reflects the beauty and emotion that the poem exudes. For example, the key change from Ab Major to E Major occurs when the text is referring to the postlude of the poems section about death. While one typically associates death with minor modes and life with major modes, Schumann takes a different approach and gives the lines of text that talk about the "you" being rest and peace and a gift from heaven and sets them to an entirely separate major mode in the middle of the major A sections. In addition to the key change, the accompaniment takes on a much more peaceful and steady driving tone as the fluid moving eighth note arpeggios are replaced with chordal quarter note passages that accentuate the sturdiness and certainty of the speakers words that he has found rest and gentle peace. The modulation is direct and hence lacks a transition. The piano accompaniment suddenly shifts keys, rhythmic patterns simply to accentuate the romantic ideas that the B section elaborates. Schumann. The text painting that plays a crucial role in this piece is found in the abnormal key change and the rhythm shift that accentuates and pulls out the ideas of love and completion in the text. From a chromatic perspective, the techniques used including flat chords seem to appear at sections during which the text refers to mysterious ideas. For example when heaven is mentioned, the chromaticism comes into play perhaps to accentuate the mysteriousness of heaven. If I were to perform this, I would make a point to make the contrast between the A and the B sections very distinct and to make sure I adequately convey the emotions through my facial expressions and bodily movements. The communication of emotions in this piece is crucial to its delivery in my opinion. Strict adherence to the dynamic will also beautifully supplement the composition techniques.

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