Beyond the "Year of Song": Text and Music in the Song Cycles of Robert Schumann after 1848

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In recent years scholars have begun to re-evaluate the works, writings, and life of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). One of the primary issues in this ongoing re-evaluation is a reassessment of the composer's late works (roughly defined as those written after 1845). Until recently, the last eight years of Schumann's creative life and the works he composed at that time either have been ignored or critiqued under an image of an illness that had caused periodic breakdowns. Schumann's late works show how his culture and the artists communicating within that culture were transformed from the beginning to the middle of the ... continued below

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Ringer, Rebecca Scharlene May 2007.

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  • Ringer, Rebecca Scharlene

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In recent years scholars have begun to re-evaluate the works, writings, and life of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). One of the primary issues in this ongoing re-evaluation is a reassessment of the composer's late works (roughly defined as those written after 1845). Until recently, the last eight years of Schumann's creative life and the works he composed at that time either have been ignored or critiqued under an image of an illness that had caused periodic breakdowns. Schumann's late works show how his culture and the artists communicating within that culture were transformed from the beginning to the middle of the nineteenth century. These late works, therefore, should be viewed in the context of Schumann's output as a whole and in regard to their contributions to nineteenth-century society. Schumann's contributions, specifically to the genre of the song cycle from 1849 to 1852, are among his late compositional works that still await full reconsideration. A topical study, focusing on three themes of selections from his twenty-three late cycles, will provide a critical evaluation of Schumann's compositional output in the genre of the song cycle. First, Schumann's political voice will be examined. The political events that led to the mid-nineteenth-century revolutions inspired crucial changes in European life and the art produced at that time. Schumann took an active role through his artistic contributions in which he exercised his political voice in responding to these changing events. Second, Schumann's storytelling voice will be explored. In the nineteenth century, storytellers remembered past events in order to comment on social and political issues of their own day. Schumann's storytelling voice allowed him to embrace a change in his own musical style and message in several late cycles.ird, Schumann's (relational) feminist voice will be considered. In two late cycles Schumann featured historical women: Elisabeth Kulmann (1808-1825), a Russian poet, and Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587). In both of these cycles, Schumann closely associated these women's lives with their work and appreciated their strength and their abilities to transcend their earthly burdens. These late song cycles not only allow us to fully appreciate a large part of Schumann's late-compositional oeuvre, but they also provide us a better understanding of the mid-century German culture from this artist's perspective. The method by which Schumann communicated with his audiencesone so different from that of the 1840-songsis as significant as the messages he hoped to communicate. Schumann's experiences leading up to 1848 had changed him as a man and as a musician. Through his late song cycles, Schumann communicated his ideas about the transformation that happened within himself, his audiences, and the German culture and proposed ways to resolve the many conflicts that existed.

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  • May 2007

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  • Sept. 28, 2007, 10:03 p.m.

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Ringer, Rebecca Scharlene. Beyond the "Year of Song": Text and Music in the Song Cycles of Robert Schumann after 1848, dissertation, May 2007; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3622/: accessed August 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .