McMaster Music Analysis Colloquium 


 PIANO INTERLUDES AS SUMMARY IN SCHUBERT'S "DER LINDENBAUM"

 

Jennifer Caines

 
 
Throughout Schubert's incredible song literature, the piano is not solely perceived as an accompanying instrument; rather, it is conceived as an instrument in dialogue with the voice. This is one of Schubert's great contributions to Lieder. "Der Lindenbaum", song number five from the song cycle Winterreise, is no exception. The piano introduction, interludes and postlude not only tie the piece together and set the tone of the text, but they also foreshadow and provide a summary of the piece as a whole.

While this piece is not strictly ternary form, it does have "ternary" elements, specifically a distinct B section that differs from anything previously stated in the piece, labeled as section B in the formal analysis. One of the defining elements of ternary form, the contrasting B section is one of the ways this Lied can be understood to be included under the umbrella of ternary form. Standard in ternary form, the B section focuses primarily on the dominant key area. The A section, followed by another statement of A, is more a feature of song form than ternary form.

FORMAL ANALYSIS
 

Section

A

 

 

 

Subsection

a

a

b

b

Measures

mm. 9-12

mm. 13-16

mm. 17-20

mm. 21-24

Key

E major

E major

E major

E major

 

A'

 

 

 

a

a

b

b

mm.29-32

mm. 33-36

mm. 37-40

mm. 41-44

e minor

e minor

E major

E major

 

B

 

c

d

mm. 46-49

mm. 50-53

C major

B major

 

A'

 

 

 

a

a

b

b

mm. 59-62

mm. 63-66

mm. 67-70 

mm. 71-76

E major

E major

E major

E major

 
The introduction of the piece features a structural descent from b-f-sharp that ends the section with some tension. This is an interrupted descent that will eventually be fulfilled in the piano postlude. The ending on the f-sharp, because it is the second scale degree and not the tonic, is a significant feature and creates tension that propels the music forward to the text and verse. The A section mirrors the introduction, only it completes the descent going from b-e.  Although there are two possible Schenkerian interpretations of this piece, a three-line structure or a five-line structure, I have adopted the five-line structure because of the prominence of the a in the introduction and piano interludes.  In the example of the three-line structure the prominent b is a note that covers the g-sharp; and the a is of little significance.  In a five-line structure, the fourth scale degree is seen as a passing note with harmonic support.  The support of the supertonic chord of the introduction and the movement from the supertonic to dominant harmonies, while sustaining the a in the right hand, justifies my hypothesis.

The triplet figure that recurs throughout the piece can be heard as leaves rustling through the oscillation of the interval of a sixth. This feature remains constant throughout the piece; whenever there is the triplet rhythm, the interval is a sixth. Visually, the playing of this section looks like a fluttering of the accompanist's hands and thus leaves on a tree. In word painting terms, the triplet figure throughout the introduction is the musical representation of the wind rustling the leaves of the linden tree, but there is much more to be considered in this seemingly inconsequential introduction that is related to the piece that follows.

Neighbour-tone motion figures prominently in the first eight bars and  throughout the piece. In the first bar there is motion from e-d-sharp-d.  The bass support of e, the key of E major is also firmly established throughout. In measure two, arguably the most important neighbour- tone motion of the introduction, c-sharp-b is played/heard. This gesture is exposed and bare, hence prominent and memorable. It is also a point of rest; the leaves have stopped rustling and there is an apparent calm. The b is the high point of the introduction in terms of emphasis. The intensity disappears; there rustling of the leaves has subsided for a brief moment. The musical purpose for this rustling is to move from e to the octave below and ascend to an a. This a is the next most important note in the introduction. The rustling has ended and the calm begins. The a is sustained through a series of passing chords until the dominant seventh chord arrives in the left hand. This is the high point in terms of dynamics in the introduction, fp. The third is absent in the dominant chord, making it sound hollow. This foreshadows the dark tone of the text and recalls the context of Winterreise: a winter's journey that is bleak and despairingly empty.  In the coming verses there will be warmth, which coincides with word painting and is suitable.

Figure 1. Middle-ground graphs of introduction and A section.

Referring to Figure 1, there are more parallels that can be seen between the introduction and the A section (verse). Both emphasize the tonic; however, this is accomplished in different ways. The introduction emphasizes the tonic by the neighbour tone motion just discussed. As the A section begins, the tonic is also emphasized, although in a different manner. The melody outlines the tonic chord, e-g-sharp-b, with the b as the more prominent note. This was foreshadowed in the model of the introduction. The ascent and descent to and from the a in the introduction is also found in the melody of the verses. Here too, the focus rests on the a as the high point of this motion. The descent, however, differs from the introduction. Although the emphasis is on the a, it does not have the rhythmic strength of the introduction. But, the descent in the A section goes beyond the introduction. Rather than resting on the f-sharp, the descent continues down to the tonic in the 'a' section of the verse. In the 'b' section of the verse, there is an ascent back to the b (mm. 17-19). In bar 19, the c that was the short upper neighbour at the beginning of the piece is expanded. A commonality between the divisions of the verse is the half cadence that serves to push the piece onwards. It is interesting to note that the introduction ends in the same manner. The answering sections are in a sense a rewrite of the previous section that settles on the tonic. Since this is a strophic setting and the sections repeat, the question arises: where is the uninterrupted descent that satisfies Schenkerian theory? As I have previously suggested, the piano accompaniment fulfills the structure of the piece while the vocal line prolongs ideas put forth by the piano.

The A' section begins with the modulation to the parallel minor, e minor, and consequently produces a darker, more somber quality to the rustling of the leaves. The melody remains the same, except for the difference of the key signature, while the accompaniment changes. This is where the darkness of the text begins to reveal itself. The text of the first section is nostalgic and sets up the darkness of the second section. The first section depicts the man sitting under the linden tree dreaming sweetly. Up until this point, the song appears to be a beacon of light in the midst of a dark song cycle. This is not the case. With the accompaniment shifting to a minor key, the music as well as the text reflects the darker meaning. The man travels alone through the deepest and darkest night, and as he passes the linden tree he must close his eyes because of the memories. This word-painting of the text is prefaced by the modulation. Mid-way through this section there is a quick change back to E major. This also serves word-painting purposes. The text shifts from the desolate to the hopeful. The rustling branches, harkening back to the introduction, speak to him as if saying: "Come here, friend; here you will find rest." With this glimmer of hope arrives the key of E major.

The setting of the fifth verse is both the most harmonically challenging and the most deviant part of the piece. Again, the purpose for this deviance is text painting. The piano demonstrates the drastic change. The previous strophe ends as all the other strophes, on a tonic chord. The listener would expect the forthcoming strophe to begin on either the tonic or dominant as the preceding verses do. In terms of symmetry, Schubert displaces the seemingly natural grouping of two verses to every section:  the A section sets the first two verses as does the A' section; the B section has only one verse, but the music is so entirely different than what has come before that it should be placed in its own section. This creates an asymmetrical structure where there is only one verse left for the final A' section which, in a modified strophic setting, should contain the same amount of music as the A section. Schubert has created a problem: he has run out of words. Schubert solves this conundrum by repeating the text of the sixth verse and even elongating the final phrase. Thus the setting of the text is divided as follows:
 

A

A'

B

A'

verses 1&2

verses3&4

verse 5

verses 6-6'

mm. 1-24

mm. 25-44

mm. 45-58

mm. 59-82

The setting of verse five does not follow the aabb 'song' form of the previous sections.  The text
for the B section is half the length of any other section. This creates the asymmetry discussed in the previous paragraph. The text states that the cold wind was blowing. In Schubert's masterly way, this wind is portrayed by the accompaniment in two ways. First, there is almost a full bar of rustling leaves which separates this section from the A' section, but reminds the listener of the introduction. More importantly, there is a dramatic harmonic change. There is a c-natural in the bass with a g-natural in the right hand, creating a C major chord. The effect, as the words describe, is chilling. It is interesting to note that throughout the entire B section the right hand has the triplet figure that has represented the rustling of the leaves. The voice is also dissonant with the accompaniment. When the voice enters, the interval created between voice and accompaniment is an augmented fourth, a tritone. As this occurs, the c-natural in the bass moves down to a b creating a V chord. The C major chord can be understood as an upper neighbour to the B major chord.

Figure 2. Piano interlude distinguishing the B section from the A section.

As the strophe progresses, there is also b-c-natural neighbour tone motion in the voice. In a Retisian sense this can be interpreted as the b-c-sharp motion found in the introduction, slightly altered by the accidental. There are many instances throughout the piece that involve the c-b neighbour tone motion. It occurs both in the soprano and bass lines as well as in the vocal line. This makes it not only a melodic device, but also a thematic agent. In the introduction, the b can be seen as a point of rest. For a moment, the leaves have stopped their rustling and the b is a standstill to the motion. In mm. 4-5, there is an altered version of the neighbour-tone b-c in the left hand of the accompaniment. This too can be understood to foreshadow the above mentioned section. The notes c, b-sharp, and b are used in this neighbour-tone motion. B-sharp is an enharmonic spelling of c-natural, which is the note in question in the b section. There are also many other subtle examples of this motive throughout the piece. Toward the end of the interlude that separates the A and A' section, there is a c-sharp-b neighbour-tone in the left hand (m. 28). This is significant because the key has now changed from major to minor and it places this motivic idea in a different context. When this motivic theme appears in the voice in the second part of the A and A' sections, it appears unaltered in comparison with the variations in the left hand. The only time it appears altered in the voice is in the B section, where it emerges as the same notes in the left hand as well as in the voice.

Another element that connects this with the introduction is an octave transfer. At the end of the B section, (mm. 50-53), there is an octave displacement from the c5-c4 ending on a V chord, with a low b3 in the voice. The interlude that connects the B section back to the Ač is essentially a B major pedal with lots of rustling that moves back to E major. Both the melody and the accompaniment focus on b and c. This re-enforces b as the structural 5^ and the c is understood to be the 5-6 motion that is so prevalent in Schenker's theory. The final chord of the introduction ends with a fifth, b-f-sharp. The b is an inner voice while the f-sharp is the structural 2^. The end of the B section takes up where the introduction leaves off. When the c leaps down the octave, it moves to the inner voice ending on b. As the b pedal begins, the triplet figure in the right hand of the accompaniment has both a b and g-sharp. The b and g-sharp continue upward and downward to end in the inner voice as it did in the introduction. The purpose of this interlude is to make the harmonic distance of the B section return to something more stable, in this case the dominant, and from there, move back to the tonic. The descents that have occurred before this point have either been interrupted or embedded at a foreground level.

Figure 3. The transition from the B section to the A' section showing the prolongation of a.


 
The Ač section has exactly the same folk-like melody while the accompaniment is a modified form of the accompaniment from the B section. This connects the A' section and the B section motivically and structurally. Since the melody is a direct repetition, the vocal line does not provide a linear descent from 5^-1^. The melody has many skips in the last few bars. The piano, taking over with the postlude, does not skip like the voice. All the motion in the postlude is stepwise. This is how the final descent manifests itself in the piano:

Figure 4. The final descent in the piano compared with the final few measures of the verse.


 
The postlude resembles the introduction. The only main difference is the last few measures. Instead of leading to the f-sharp, as does the interrupted descent in the introduction, the motion continues to the tonic. The postlude finishes what the vocal line prolongs. Whereas the vocal line cannot have the proper descent because of the strophic quality, the piano can supply the proper descent because it summarizes what takes place in the vocal line. The accompaniment is utilized to connect the sections of the Lied as well as provide a frame for the song. The frame contains all the elements found in the vocal line. The vocal line expands on these ideas while the accompaniment summarizes and brings these threads together.

Following the development of the First and Second Berlin Schools, Schubert furthered the role of the piano in German Lieder. The piano no longer held simply an accompanimental position. It was treated on an equal level with the voice. This example from Winterreise is an excellent example of the piano playing a more important role. The solo piano sections of "Der Lindenbaum" are integral to the piece, supplying the structure to the text and vocal line.
 
 

© Copyright 1999 by Jennifer Caines.