Schenkerian Analysis Forum
Piano Interludes as Summary in Schubert's
Throughout Schubert's incredible song literature the piano is not solely perceived as an accompanying instrument. 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 for the text, rather it foreshadows or provides a summary of the piece as a whole.
In word painting terms, the triplet figure throughout the introduction is the musical representation of the wind rustling the leaves of the lime tree, but there is much more to be considered in this introduction that is related to the section that follows. There is a lot of nieghbour tone motion utilized in the first eight bars, which figures prominently throughout the piece. In the first bar there is notion from E-D#-D. To the keen ear, along with the bass support of E, the key of E major is firmly established. In measure two, arguably the most important neighbour tome motion of the introduction, C#-B is played/heard. This gesture is exposed and bare. This makes it much more prominent and memorable. The B is the high point of the introduction in terms of emphasis. The intensity disappears while there is more rustling of the leaves. The musical purpose for this rustling is to move from E to the octave below and ascend to an A. This is the next most important note in the introduction. The rustling has ended and the calmness 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. There is a no third in the dominant chord, making it sound hollow. This foreshadows the dark tone of the text. The third of the chord would make it sound warmer. Remembering the context of Winterreise, a winter's journey that is bleak and despairingly empty, there should be very little warmth in the music. In the coming verses there will be warmth, that coincides with word painting and is appropriate. It is appropriate at this point of the piece, where there has been no text and the pianist is responsible to prepare the mood, to be cold and distant. In the introduction there is a structural descent form B-F# ending the section with a little bit of tension. The ending on the F# is a growing feature 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.
In comparing the introduction with the A section (verse), there are many parallels that can be stated. Each section emphasizes the tonic, just in different ways. The introduction demonstrates the tonic by the neighbour tone motion. As the A section begins, the tonic is also emphasized. The melody outlines the tonic chord, however, the B is more prominent in this chord. This was predestined in the model of the introduction. The ascent and descent to and from the A in the introduction are found in the melody of the verses. Here too the focus rests on the A as the high point of this motion. The descent differs from the introduction. Although the emphasis is on the A, it does not have the rhythmic strength of the introduction. Also, the descent goes beyond the introduction. Rather than resting on the F# 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 (mm17-19). 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 deceptive 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? I wish to put forth the argument that the piano accompaniment supplies the structure of the piece while the vocal line prolongs ideas put forth by the piano.
The B section begins with the modulation to the parallel minor, e minor, and consequently produces a minor 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 lime tree dreaming sweetly. Up until the 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 solitary through the deepest and darkest night, and as he passes the lime 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 wordpainting purposes. The text shifts from the desolate to the hopeful. The rustling branches, harkening back to the introduction, spoke to him as if saying: Come here, friend, Here you will find rest. With this glimmer of hope arrives the key of E major. Still included in the B section is the next verse of the original poem. This 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. In terms of symmetry, Schubert sets three verses of the original poem which offsets the symmetry of six verses. The A section sets the first two verses. That leaves one verse for the A¹ section. This creates an assymmetrical structure, where there were two verses for the A¹ section with the same amount of music. Schubert solves this problem by repeating the text of the sixth verse. Thus the setting of the text is divided as follows:
A: v1, v2 B: v3, v4, v5 A¹: v6, v6
b. 1-24 b. 25-58 b. 59-82
The setting of verse five does not follow the aabb 'song' form of the previous strophes. The text is: the cold wind was blowing. This is portrayed two ways in the accompaniment. First, there is almost a full bar of leaves rustling, which has never occurred in the middle of a section, that 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. The voice is also dissonant with the accompaniment. When the voice enter, 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, V chord. The C major chord can be understood as an upper neighbour to B.
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# motion found in the introduction, slightly altered by the accidental. Another element that connects this with the introduction is the octave transferring. At the end of the B section, (mm. 50-53), the octave displacement is seen from the C-C ending on a V chord, with a low B in the voice. The interlude that connects the B section back to the A¹ 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 ˆ5 and the C is understood to be the 5-6 motion so prevalent in Schenker's theory. The final chord of the introduction ends with a fifth, B-F#. The B is an inner voice while the F# is the structural ˆ2. The end of the B section takes up where the introduction left 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#. The B and G# 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.
The A¹ 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 ˆ5-ˆ1. The melody jumps around 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.
The postlude resembles the introduction. The only main difference is the last few measures. Instead of leading to the F#, as 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 supple 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" play an integral part, supplying the structure to the text and vocal line.