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Nineteenth-Century Art Song

42 Romantic Song
Key Points
Typical romantic song structures include strophic
and through-composed forms; some fall between
into a modified-strophic form
The German art song, or Lied, for solo voice and
piano was a favored Romantic genre.
Composer wrote song cycles that unified a group
of songs by poem or theme.
The poetry of the lied used themes of love and
nature; the favored poets were Goethe and Heine
Types of Song Structure
The art song met the need for intimate
personal expression.
The form came into prominence in the early
decades and emerged as a favored example of
the new lyricism.
Two main song structures prevailed: strophic
and through-composed.

Types of Song Structure
Strophic form is when the same melody is
repeated with every stanza, or strophe of the
poem; hymns carols, as well most folk and
popular songs are strophic.
This form accommodates all the stanzas of the
Through-composed form
The other song type called durchkomponiert,
or through-composed form by the Germans
proceeds from beginning to end, without
repetitions of whole sections.
The music follows the story line, changing
according to the text; thus making it possible
for the composer to mirror the shade of
meaning in the words.
Modified-strophic form
There is also an intermediate type that
combines features of both.
The same melody may re repeated for two or
three stanzas, with new material introduced
when the poem requires it, generally at the
This is a modified strophic form.
The Lied
Art song was a product of the Romantic era.
The lied (lieder) is a German-texted solo vocal
song with piano accompaniment.
Among the great masters of this genre are
Schubert, Schumann, Brahms & Hugo Wolf.
Women composers who have contributed to
the genre include Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara
Schumann and Amy Cheney Beach.
Lied (cont.)
Some composers wrote groups of lieder that were
unified by a narrative thread or descriptive theme,
known as a song cycle.
The rise of the lied was fuelled by the outpouring of
lyric poetry that marked German Romanticism.
Goethe and Heinrich Heine were the two leading poets
who like Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley and Keats in
literature favored short, personal, lyric poems; Texts
ranged from tender sentiment to dramatic balladry.
Also included universal themes of love, longing and the
beauty of nature.
Popularity of the piano
Another circumstance that popularized the
Romantic art song was the emergence of the
piano as the preferred household instrument.
Piano accompaniment translated a songs
poetic images into music.
Voice and piano together fused the short lyric
form with feeling and made is suitable for
amateurs and artists alike, in both the home
and the concert hall.
43 Schubert and the Lied
Key Points

Franz Schubert was a gifted songwriter who
composed more than 600 famous lieder and
several song cycles.
Erlking a through-composed Lied based on a
German legend set in a dramatic poem by
Goethe- is one of his most famous songs.
Schubert died young and impoverished, in
part because of his bohemian lifestyle.
His Life
Franz Schuberts life has become a romantic
symbol of the artists fate.
He was not properly appreciated during his
He died very young, leaving the world a
musical legacy of some 900 works.
His Life (cont.)
He was born in a suburb of Vienna, the son of
a schoolmaster.
As a boy, he learned the violin from his father
and piano from an elder brother.
His beautiful soprano voice gained him
admittance to the imperial chapel and school
where the court singers were trained.
He was one of the Vienna Choir Boys.
His teachers were astonished at his musicality.
His Life (cont.)
Young Schubert tried to follow in his fathers
footsteps; he was not cut out for classroom.
He found escape by immersing himself into the
lyric poetry of the budding German Romanticism.
Everything he touched turned to song; music
came to him with miraculous spontaneity.
Erlking, set to a poem by Goethe, was written
while he was still a teenager.
The song won him immediate public recognition
yet he had difficulty finding a publisher.
Virtuoso (not!)
Schubert was not as well known as some
composers of his era (the virtuoso Paganini,
who received much more attention.)
He was appreciated by Viennese public and
his reputation grew steadily.
His music was centered in the home, in salon
concerts amid a select circle of friends and

Later Years
Schubert suffered deeply during his later years,
largely owing to a progressive debilitation
believed to from advanced stages of syphilis.
He was often pressed for money and sold his
music for much less than it was worth.
As his youthful exuberance gave way to the
maturity of a deeply emotional Romantic artist,
he perceived that he had lost the struggle with

Winters Journey
This emotional climate pervades his magnificent
song cycle Winters Journey in which he
introduced a somber lyricism to music.
Overcoming his discouragement, he embarked on
his left efforts.
In the final year of his life, he composed a Mass in
E flat, the String Quartet in C, 3 piano sonatas,
(published posthumously) and 13 of his finest
Dying Wish
While he was terminally ill, he corrected the
proofs of the final part of Winters Journey.
His dying wish was to be buried near the
master he worshipped above all others
Schubert was 31 when he died in 1828.
His wish was granted.

His Music
Schuberts music marks the confluence of the
Classical and Romantic eras.
His symphonies are Classical in their form; in his
lieder and piano pieces he was a Romantic.
His melodies have a tender and longing quality
that match the tone of the poetry they set.
In his chamber music, he was a direct descendent
of Haydn and Mozart. His quartets, piano trios
and the Trout quintet end the line of Viennese
Other Works
In his impromptus and other short piano pieces,
the piano sings with a new lyricism.
There are over 600 songs; many were written at
breakneck speed, sometimes 5, 6 , or 7 in a single
The accompaniments are especially expressive.
The two song cycles Lovely Maid of the Mill and
Winters Journey, both on poems by Wilhem
Muller convey impassioned feelings of love and