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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Schubert's Incorporation and Transcendence of Recitative in German Lieder

  • Author(s): Colclough, Keith Allen
  • Advisor(s): Brecher, Benjamin
  • et al.

This work traces Schubert's use of recitative in Lieder from its inception in his first song D5 Hagars Klage, through his eventual incorporation and transcendence of recitative. It discusses the implications of this evolution both in performance and the development of the German Lied.

This requires that Schubert’s Liedrezitativ first be defined as an interpretive tool, including its dramatic and structural applications as well as its technical construction. In the opening chapter, specific Schubert Lied passages are compared with his compositional models and influences from opera, song, and the secular cantata.

The second chapter explores Schubert’s development and transcendence of Liedrezitativ, beginning with a brief explanation of Joakim Kramarz’s work, Das Rezitativ im Liedschaffen des Schuberts. Kramarz uses an exhaustive analysis of Schubert’s recitative cadential figures to demonstrate Schubert’s evolution away from the techniques of Salieri and Gluck, but Kramarz’s work remains largely musicological. The work at hand aims to expand Kramarz’s findings, through analysis of Schubert’s revisions to his own works and the construction of his late Liedrezitativ, and to discuss the implications of Schubert’s evolution of style for modern performers.

The third chapter explores the most effective and appropriate performance of Schubert’s Lieder in consultation with treatises from the turn of the nineteenth century, first-hand accounts, Schubert’s own words, the legacy of performance tradition embodied in today’s leading Schubert performers, and the compositions themselves.

This study finds that early songs with recitative can and should be performed observing the rhythm of speech over written note values when the accompaniment allows. However, increasingly after 1820, Schubert’s Lieder became rhythmically more exact, requiring disciplined rhythmic execution with sparing rubato. This evolution is an example of Schubert’s expansion and eventual distillation of Lieder into a dynamic but precise expressive medium, which established the Lied as a genre of worth for “serious” composers.

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