Volume 10, Number 1, February 2004
Copyright © 2004 Society for Music Theory

Keynote Address, Twenty-Sixth Annual SMT Conference

Janet Schmalfeldt*

"Coming Home"

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Introductory Remarks

"Coming Home"


Introductory Remarks

[1] It was an honor and a great pleasure to deliver a keynote address to the Society for Music Theory at its annual meeting in November of 2003. I'm also grateful for the invitation to publish the address pretty much as was in Music Theory Online. So that readers will know the extent to which "live" performance played a role in my presentation, MTO Editor Timothy Koozin has even encouraged me to preserve my indications as to when and what would be performed. Let me take this opportunity again to thank just-retired SMT President Betsy West Marvin for performing three songs with me; her contributions were exquisite.

[2] A few SMT members who kindly offered words of critique to me after my presentation will be pleased, I hope, to note that I've made some small but significant revisions in response. My reference to TV's "The Mickey Mouse Club" has been changed to a nod to Chicago White Sox games; my brother is right to point out that, when I was 16 and he was 12, he would certainly not still have been watching "Mickey Mouse." Finally, I shall hope that this piece invites new responses and comments, and I'll very much look forward to these.

"Coming Home"

[3] It was a clever idea for the 2003 SMT Program Committee to choose a keynoter who would be virtually "coming home" to Wisconsin to give her address. As you can see, my topic today shamelessly takes its cue from that committee. I am indeed "coming home" this afternoon--not to my alma mater, but at least to the school whose Summer Music Clinic, for high schoolers, gave me my first break as a pianist. Of course I've also been coming home, to a small town about ninety miles east of here, for family visits over many, many years. More to the point, my work in recent years represents another kind of homecoming: when, not so long ago, I turned to matters involving the European repertoire of the early nineteenth century, I was returning in no small measure to some of the music with which I had grown up, especially at the keyboard. My effort at the SMT conference last year to examine formal processes in Schubert's music that enact a kind of "turning inward" was motivated as much as anything by the private question, Why have I always felt so very much "at home" with Schubert? A similar question lies at the heart of today's essay: this afternoon I seek musical answers for why the closing moments in many of Robert Schumann's compositions would seem for me to evoke the idea of yearning to "come home."

[4] Of course there is an obvious way in which most tonal pieces end by "coming home": they tend to end in their "home key." Just why that expression has become such a commonplace is a topic in its own right, and one that many of you have undoubtedly pondered. Who would deny that the metaphor of the tonic as "home key" must have something to do with a sentiment shared by so many cultures over so many centuries that it seems--dare I say--universal. "Home" is not just the place where we now live; it's also the place where we first lived, and thus it's the source of everything that our childhood meant to us. Needless to say, individuals whose childhoods were ravaged by abuse or deprived of love are not likely to want to return home. But if we were lucky, childhood was our garden of Eden before the Fall--the time when we trusted that our parents loved us unconditionally, when we believed that we would always be safe in their care. Time and place tend to merge here. For this small-town Midwesterner, childhood was the place where an out-of-tune Chickering piano shared the living room with an early version of the TV, where we kids played baseball after school in the open field next door, where, to this day, a solitary close-position triad in the middle register can make me remember the warning of the freight train that would come through town in the middle of the night. But "home" needn't be a particular place; for nomadic cultures, perhaps home is simply the comfort of food, family, and sleep at the end of the day. Nor must home be necessarily associated with a particular time; for those who have never left home, it's timeless. No wonder that the stability and sense of completeness tonic closure can convey has become associated with one of the most potent and consoling words in any language.

[5] And yet, here's the thing. Leaving home, rather than staying home, has long been the norm for young adults in American society, and there's nothing essentially modern, or American, about this. If the Trojan War really did occur, then Homer's legendary Ulysses may have left home in the twelfth century B.C. The history of so-called civilization is the tale of one migration, voyage, crusade, expedition, exodus, emigration, expulsion, and deportation after another. In our last century alone--a century worn down by civil wars, military coups, totalitarian regimes, homelessness, two World Wars, and threats of a third--the plight of individuals as exiles or emigrants has yielded a powerful genre of its own in all the arts. To name just a few of the contributors, I think of Vladimir Nabokov's poignant Speak, Memory, of various poems and essays by Joseph Brodsky, of the writings of Theodor Adorno, Edward Said, Milan Kundera, and W.G. Sebald;(1) and obviously I'm only scratching the surface here. Whether or not the work of composers, performers, and music theorists reflects their status as émigrés, I think of Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Horowitz, Schoenberg, Bartók, Krenek, Hindemith, Kurt Weill, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, and the Schenkerians Felix Salzer, Ernst Oster, and Oswald Jonas. Consider the photographic series called "Exiles" by the Czechoslovakian Josef Koudelka, or the photos of global and national migrations by the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado.(2) Perhaps you've seen the recent film Rabbit-Proof Fence, in which three small "half-caste" Aborigine girls, abducted in the 1930s for the "betterment" of Australian society, escape and walk some 1,500 miles along the fence, to find their way home.(3) If there is one thing that studies of dispossession would seem to share, it is the disturbing message that home is never the same once we leave it, especially if we never manage to return.

[6] But I'm particularly concerned today with what "home" might have meant to Austrians and Germans in the early decades of the nineteenth century. By 1815 the Congress of Vienna had marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and established a German Confederation under Austrian control. But now, as Nicholas Marston puts it, "the repressiveness of [Prince] Metternich's police state created a heightened sense of separation between public and private spheres of action and expression."(4) In his memoir of 1872, Schubert's friend Eduard von Bauernfeld looks back on life in Vienna in the 1820s and says: "The police in general and censorship in particular weighed on us all like a monkey we could not get off our back."(5) Within this corrupt urban environment, where overcrowding and disease were everywhere and death was a daily event, where your neighbor might turn out to be a spy, home became sacred; it was the one place of refuge, comfort, and privacy, the safe haven where secrets could be shared, and where the upright pianoforte could accommodate performances of the most intimate of genres-- the lyrical piano piece, the Lied, the sonata, and the piano duet. The bourgeois homemaker was of course the woman of the house, who usually stayed at home, and to whom the pater familias could retreat from public life at the end of the day; for men, "family and home became the symbol of peace, tranquility, privacy, and male authority."(6)

[7] In this light, it is especially touching to note that, of the many lodgings Franz Schubert shared with friends, none lasted long enough to be called his home. This detail is one of the many pointing to the likelihood that Schubert himself identified with the protagonist who sings "Ich bin ein Fremdling überall" (I am a stranger everywhere) in the song "Der Wanderer" (D. 489), from 1816--the year of Schubert's first departure from his father's home.(7) As the composer of song cycles, and as one who tremendously admired Conradin Kreutzer's setting (1818) of Ludwig Uhland's Wanderlieder poems (1813), Schubert might easily have jumped onto the Uhland type of Wanderlieder bandwagon. In the grand Bildungsgeschichte tradition of, for example, Goethe, Tieck, Novalis, and Eichendorff, Uhland's wanderer undertakes the quintessential German Romantic quest for self-awareness; his journey away from home both mirrors and enables the psychological process of coming to grips with absence, self-division, and alienation. The last song of the Uhland/Kreutzer cycle is called "Heimkehr"--"homecoming"; through the act of coming home, Uhland's wanderer achieves resolution and attains a higher level of appreciation for the beloved he had left behind.(8) By contrast, Wilhelm Müller's young man in Die schöne Müllerin, having left his home, apparently ends his own life when his beloved becomes unattainable; and Müller's wanderer in Die Winterreise, far from going home, ends by identifying with a homeless street musician, the hurdy-gurdy player. These are the poetic cycles that occupied Schubert. Indeed, it may well be that Schubert's only meaningful homecoming happened to him in a dream. In a document that he entitled "Mein Traum," discovered and published after his death by none other than Robert Schumann, Schubert tells in first person a story in which his father twice banishes him from home when he fails to partake of a feast. His second exile, which finds him wandering and singing for long, long years in a distant land, comes to a miraculous end when he finds himself transported back to what seems like home, to a father who is now loving and weeping, and to the sensation of eternal bliss.(9) But remember: it was only a dream.

[8] Like Schubert, Robert Schumann was not encouraged by his family to pursue a musical career. His decision in 1830 to abandon the study of law in favor of music alienated him from his entire family and gave his mother a "broken heart"--these words from the woman to whom he was the most intensely attached.(10) When, at age eighteen, Schumann departed from his childhood home in Zwickau to enter law school in the big city of Leipzig, his first letter to his mother expresses what certainly sounds like a touch of homesickness: "I long with all my heart to return to my quiet home where I was born and have spent happy days in nature. Nature, where can I find it here? Everything is so artificial: there are no hills, no valleys, no woods…."(11) Although Schumann returned home often enough over the years to come, there are three occasions on which his absence from home must surely have seemed strange, and maybe these hark back to the death of his older sister, by suicide, and the death of his father, within just ten months when Robert was fifteen: perhaps because home had become painfully, even obsessively, associated with death for him, he could not bring himself to attend the funeral either of his brother Julius in 1833 or of his mother in 1836, and he arrived home too late for his brother Eduard's funeral in 1839. On that return, he recorded the impression that his hometown "was now completely extinct."(12) When death comes to our childhood home, what was once idyllic can become the primal site of loss and greatest sadness.

[9] It is well known that the year 1840 became Schumann's Liederjahr, his "Year of Song." This was the year that would eventually bring a successful outcome to the lawsuit against Clara Wieck's father that Robert and Clara had initiated for legal permission to marry. A hiatus in the formal proceedings against Wieck, and one during which Clara would be on tour in northern Germany, found Robert suddenly producing song after song in rapid succession--nearly 125 songs by the end of the year; John Daverio asserts that many of these, though by no means all, may be viewed as "musical missives to the distant beloved, much like the piano music of the middle and later 1830s."(13) In fact it was Clara herself who selected the twelve poems from Joseph von Eichendorff's collected edition that would become the basis for the song cycle Robert regarded as his "most profoundly romantic"--the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39.(14) At a time when Clara was away from home, and estranged from the father who ruled there, while Robert longed for the home he hoped soon to create with Clara, it may be no coincidence that the song eventually to become the first of the cycle speaks of homelessness, and that the cycle's most celebrated song enacts a transcendental flight "nach Haus."

[10] I refer of course to the first of two songs (Nos. 1 and 8) entitled "In der Fremde" and to Song No. 5, the ravishingly beautiful "Mondnacht," in the key of E major. If you know Patrick McCreless's essay on the Eichendorff Liederkreis or David Ferris's very fine recent book on the same, or if you've studied Charles Burkhart's superb analysis of "Mondnacht," in the 1990 volume of Schenker Studies, you may wonder why I would dare to revisit this song today.(15) Luckily for me, none of those authors asks the question I'd like to raise: From the striking manner in which Schumann sets Eichendorff's final words, "nach Haus," what might we imagine that these words meant for Schumann? In other words, to what extent might the closing moments of Schumann's song hold the key to his reading of the poem as a whole?

[11] To remind you about "Mondnacht," I provide Eichendorff's poem and Schumann's setting in my handout at Example 1; the translation is by David Ferris.(16) As you'll see, both in the score and at Figure 1, Schumann responds to Eichendorff's three-stanza poem by choosing the so-called bar form--the venerable A-A'-B scheme, whereby, in this case, an introduction and then a single eight-bar phrase, repeated (and labeled little a), provide the material for both of the A-sections and the final phrase of B. Why the bar form? Schumann's rationale is no less elegant for being obvious. In Eichendorff's first two stanzas, we have nothing more, or less, than a hushed, shimmering, moonlit Caspar David Friedrich landscape, in which, as if, once upon a time (es war als), heaven and earth converge in a kiss and the gentlest of breezes provides the only motion. By contrast, the third stanza mobilizes the poem--it carries us first inward, then outward and upward into the starry night: as if present all along, a first person emerges, and now that soul gains wings, like the soul in Plato's Phaedrus; expanding its wings, the soul "flies through the quiet land, as if it were flying home." If ever the third stanza of a three-part poem were to beg in its musical setting for change and a new direction, here it is.

[12] Like the sixth and seventh songs of this Liederkreis, "Mondnacht" makes a drastic departure "from the norm of compositional practice," to quote Charles Burkhart. Its harmonic foundation "lacks the normal initial tonic"; instead, the complete song is "based on the incomplete progression V-I," and thus the song exemplifies in its entirety what Heinrich Schenker called an "auxiliary cadence."(17) For Burkhart, the one-and-only structural home-tonic resolution comes "precisely on the last word, ‘Haus' [home]"; in short, says Burkhart, "the poem seems almost to have been written for the very purpose of being recomposed in terms of an auxiliary cadence!" Burkhart's exquisite series of voice-leading graphs explores this point on multiple levels of structure; with his permission, I reproduce two of his graphs--the one showing "early levels" and the one representing "foreground"--at my Example 2, a & b. The Roman numerals in handwriting beneath the bass staff in Burkhart's graph at Ex. 2b have been added by me.

[13] In Ex. 2b as well as in the score starting at m. 7, you'll note that, on the most foreground level, a descending-fifths sequence--[V6/5]--ii; V6/5--I--composes out Burkhart's more middleground ii--V progression (shown with my large Roman numerals). This in turn serves to prolong the background dominant over the span of the first vocal phase, and then again through each of its repetitions. Burkhart observes that in fact the ii--V progression already appears over the dominant pedal in the pianist's introduction; and this is just one of several astonishing ways in which the introduction anticipates the essential motivic components of the song proper. To the three motives that Burkhart identifies, I've applied the following labels: x, for the neighbor motion C#-to-B that establishes the primary tone 5^; y, for the descending-3rd motion F#-E-D#, which recurs in the pseudo-bass (lowest) voice at mm. 8-9; and z, for the implied descending 4th B-A-G#-F#, which returns as the primary descent 5^-4^-3^-2^ beneath the vocal line, as a "cover-tone voice," over the span of mm. 5-13.(18) Most astonishing, at least for me, is the manner in which the pianist's introduction portrays the forthcoming metaphor of the first stanza. Watch my two hands--as they begin far apart, within the extremes of bass and soprano register, but then converge in the middle register and then descend together (PLAY: mm. 1-5). The image of the masculine "heaven"--Der Himmel, or, rather, the rays of the moon itself--descending as if in wedded bliss to kiss the feminine "earth", Die Erde, and to set her all aglow with dreams, must have been particularly moving to Robert and Clara, as they awaited the verdict that would determine the direction of their lives together. In a letter from Robert to Clara in April 1838, we even learn that Robert regarded the word "Ehe"--the German word for "marriage"--to be a "musical word"; its pitch equivalent is E-B-E, as heard in mm. 10-11 in the bass and as B-E-B at the word "die Erde."(19)

[14] Clearly the momentous effect of section B, which begins at m. 45, has everything to do with the static quality of the dominant prolongation throughout sections A and A'. After 46 measures of hovering on dominant harmony, the motion to V7 of IV at m. 47 comes on the word "spannte" as if to expand the entire tonal universe; and here the radiant return of the introductory gesture, now in its highest register, miraculously creates the illusion of "stretching" the phrase over the great vocal divide between "spannte" and "weit" that ignores Eichendorff's poetic enjambment. When the subdominant at m. 51 moves to the motivically crucial supertonic, the ii-chord at m. 53, our opening vocal phrase now begins for the first and only time directly on that chord, and this time it behaves like the consequent phrase that we've been expecting all along: via hemiola at mm. 57-59, the singer now takes the descent "home" to scale-degree 1^ that has been avoided until the end.(20) But, please, what about the pianist?

[15] Let me now ask Betsy Marvin to join me in a performance of "Mondnacht." In agreeing to do this, Betsy helps me perpetuate a plot in which I manage to arrange for past SMT Presidents to perform together (at last year's conference Thomas Christensen helped me present moments from Schubert's Piano Duet in A Minor, the "Lebensstürme"). As Betsy and I approach the end of the song, I ask you please to consider carefully the manner in which Schumann achieves tonal closure and the effect that this creates. (We PERFORM the song.)

[16] To say the obvious, the word "Haus" coincides for the pianist not with the cadential tonic, but rather with an inverted form of the secondary dominant that seemed to send the soul into orbit at m. 47--the V7 of IV. In technical terms, let's say that an evaded cadence (EC) occurs at m. 59, and that this is followed by the plagal progression IV-I (PLAY). Burkhart's foreground graph at my Ex. 2b clearly displays this delayed arrival on root tonic at m. 61; but Ex. 2a suggests that, on the background level, he understands the delay to be the composing-out of a cadential tonic already fundamentally in effect at the word "Haus" in m. 59; and surely Schenker would have concurred. By contrast, David Ferris hears the passage at hand as a "weakening of the harmonic progression"; and this, in coordination with the "disjunction between vocal melody and accompaniment" at m. 59, creates an "open ending" for him.(21) Both authors address what Burkhart describes as the "typically Eichendorffian idea of Man's yearning to be at one with Nature"--a benign Nature, within which the protagonist "moves toward a new state of being or a deepening of experience."(22) But Ferris sees Schumann's "open ending" as capturing something of Eichendorff's intimation that the epiphanic flight of the soul can only be elusive, unreal, and transitory. For Ferris, Eichendorff's "allusion to the soul's return home makes it clear that, within his earthly life, the narrator cannot achieve the convergence for which he yearns"; this will happen only in death.(23) In other words, and unless I've misunderstood, "nach Haus" conveys a certain resignation, if not disappointment, in Ferris's view.

[17] For me, Schumann's treatment of those highly charged words--"nach Haus"--has always conveyed something quite different: there's something about shooting beyond the goal of the home tonic--only then to settle upon it--that seems to make this arrival all the more powerful, satisfying, and transcendental. Schumann's coda then unquestionably confirms that, even if it's just a dream, the soul has arrived at the very place towards which it strove; fragments of the introductory gesture in the middle and low registers, and then a final liquidation of these, now all transposed into the realm of the home key, would seem to suggest that the wings of the soul now fold inward and come to rest. Here for me is a "nach Haus" that is even better than the childhood Garden of Eden we left behind, regardless of whether we can ever reclaim it, or recreate it, on this earth. In another letter from 1838, Robert writes to Clara: "If I could only be as truly devoted as I was in childhood--I was really a happy child then, assembling chords at the piano, or picking flowers outside … But one grows older. Now I want to play with you, the way angels do together, from eternity to eternity."(24) Perhaps for Robert in the spring of 1840, still struggling to gain Clara's hand, Eichendorff's "nach Haus" meant being at home for a blissful eternity with Clara.

[18] Friedrich Wieck managed to sustain the legal battle against his daughter and Robert for an entire fourteen months; but by August of 1840 Wieck's de facto admission of defeat was made official, and now the wedding plans could get underway. Already by April of that year, Robert had completed a collection of songs to be presented to Clara as a wedding present; on September 7th, five days before the wedding, Robert paid for a "lavishly bound copy" of that collection; its title is Myrthen (myrtles--after the flower traditionally associated with German weddings), and it is dedicated: "To my beloved bride."(25) Appropriately, the first song of the group sets a poem by Friedrich Rückert entitled "Widmung"--"Dedication"; please find that song and a translation of its text at my Example 3.

[19] There is hardly any mystery about the "du" to whom Robert Schumann addresses Rückert's wonderful outpouring--"Du meine Seele, du mein Herz, du meine Wonn', o du mein Schmerz," etc. Nor is it surprising that Schumann's music transforms Rückert's non-stanzaic, one-part poetic form into a musical small ternary (A-B-A'). Rückert's change of tone--or dynamic, as it were--at "Du bist die Ruh', du bist der Frieden" so beautifully invites Schumann's shift into the serene dream-world of flat-VI at the beginning of his B-section in m. 14 (enharmonic E major, relative to the home tonic of A-flat); and his reprise of Rückert's opening four lines then inspires him to close the A'-section by jumping to the last, and most moving, line of the poem, "Mein guter Geist, mein bessres Ich!" (my good spirit, my better self). But like "Mondnacht," "Widmung" takes an especially remarkable turn at its very end, and here there might be some mystery.

[20] As Betsy and I now perform "Widmung," perhaps I could ask you to give some attention to my analytic overlay in the score. You'll see that I make a claim for scale-degree 3^--the C-natural on the first "Du"--as primary tone (maybe C for Clara?). Natural scale-degree 3^ moves by implication to flat-3^, the enharmonic B-natural, at the beginning of the B-section. And then, in one of Schumann's most breathtaking retransitions, the neighbor-tone C# over the A-major chord in m.25 becomes the D-flat of m. 26, while an unexpected descent via augmented-4th in the bass carries the harmony from the Neapolitan to the home dominant-7th. Within the four-bar "standing-on-the-dominant-pedal" phrase that follows, that stunning suspended grace-note in m. 27 seems to suggest that the pianist's voice nearly falters as she anticipates the singer's "mein guter Geist." At the cadential close of the reprise in mm. 38-39, you'll note that I have trouble finding a fundamental Urlinie descent on the musical surface! Finally, please ask yourself, Just what does the pianist's coda have to do with this song? And don't look ahead to my Example 4, because that will give everything away! (We PERFORM the song.)

[21] Well, you probably did look at Example 4, but if not, now's the time. Though I've seen nothing in print about this, I know I'm not the only person who hears Schumann alluding in his coda to the opening of Schubert's well-known "Ave Maria." (PLAY). Why does Schumann do this?! The obvious first answer--Clara as virgin saint, the holy mother of God--may be the least interesting. Two additional ideas come to mind. First, it happens that, as a concert pianist in Berlin during the winter of 1839-1840, Clara frequently performed Franz Liszt's 1838 transcription of Schubert's song, often on demand; we know this in particular from her letters to Robert.(26) Like the many other messages in music that Robert was in the habit of sending to Clara, his allusion to "Ave Maria" might thus have been an especially private and professionally complimentary one. Second, there may have been another dedicatée lurking behind the tones of Schumann's coda, and that would be Schubert himself--the composer whom Schumann loved the most, and to whom he may have been the most indebted. Don't forget that even at the end of Schumann's short life, just before his suicide attempt and his demand to be committed to an asylum, what brought him one glorious moment of happiness was the delusion that Schubert himself had appeared to him and given him a magnificent melody, for a set of variations.(27)

[22] As for the structural role of Schumann's coda, we might note that the twice-heard "Ave Maria" melody, though technically just a turn around scale-degree 1^ (the A-flat), itself alludes to the middleground 3^-2^-1^ descent at the end of the A-section in mm. 12-13 (PLAY). We'd have good reason to expect that a similar descent would provide the fundamental melodic closure of the song proper, but it's missing from the vocal line at m. 38, having been transferred to the pianist's tenor voice. Thus, whether or not Schumann's coda "comes home" to both Clara and Schubert, it does indeed subtly accomplish a melodic "homecoming"--one that, with much declamatory verve, the vocal line withholds. And yet, when we compare Schumann's harmonization of "Ave Maria" with Schubert's, we discover much greater dissonance with Schumann: note that the almost completely chromatic "lament"-like descent in the bass provides the opportunity for a new inversion of the half-diminished ii7-chord heard at the word "Schmerz" in mm. 5 and 33. Rückert reminds us that there can be great pain in love; one senses that Schumann, just now on the verge of creating a home with Clara, had the prescience and wisdom to anticipate something of both the joy and the sorrow they would share.

[23] Here, then, is another closing moment in Schumann that retrospectively seems to encapsulate the expressive core of the piece, but it does this as if by standing outside the piece, for the purpose of reflecting upon it. We can come closer to capturing what happens here if we compare such closings with some of those great heroic struggles to victory, those progressive trajectories, those willful end-oriented works, often cyclic, that so many nineteenth-century composers (including Schumann) explored in the aftermath of Beethoven. By contrast, the closings and codas that I examine today are quiet, rather than climactic, affairs; the quietness is not atypical of codas in general, but not a requirement of these. The coda in "Widmung" is not set up to serve as the goal to which everything is directed, but it nevertheless seems to bring the song "home," by virtue of both its structure and its deeply reflective, allusive character.

[24] A counter-example will be useful here, and I choose one more song--this one in the same key, A-flat major, but this one by Clara herself. Let's consider the ingenious but entirely different ending and overall shape that emerges in Clara's setting of Emanuel Geibel's poem "Die stille Lotosblume," shown with a text translation at Example 5. Upon Robert's encouragement, and now in the role of Clara Schumann, rather than Clara Wieck, she composed this song in 1842 and published it the following year, as the last of her Six Songs, Op. 13.

[25] One of Robert's own songs in his Myrthen collection is his setting of a poem by Heinrich Heine called, simply, "Die Lotosblume" (Op. 25, No. 7). From Heine as well as Geibel, we learn that the exotic, feminine-gendered lotus blossom prefers the moonlight to the morning sun; only at night does she rise up from the lake. Her delicate snow-white "chalice" suggests virginity, but the masculine-gendered moon knows how to make love to her. In Geibel's poem a third party enters the scene--a swan who yearns to rival the moon as suitor; it would appear that the swan knows how to communicate only through song. We don't know who raises the question at the end of Geibel's last stanza--"Oh flower …can you understand the song?"; does the swan finally speak here, or is this more likely a narrator? Either way, the lotus blossom emits no answer, and so the swan's song was probably in vain. To underscore the ambiguity, Clara reverses the V-to-I harmonic path that Robert took in his "Mondnacht," and the outcome is even bolder: Clara's song ends on the dominant-7th.

[26] To be more precise, Clara's ending is her beginning: you'll see that what returns in her final two bars is her initial 2-bar introduction, with its elegant appoggiatura-chord embellishment of the dominant-7th (PLAY). To be sure, the introduction serves as the upbeat to a genuine, unequivocal structural tonic in m. 3. But then both the antecedent phrase in mm. 3-6 and the continuation in mm. 7-10 lead to half cadences, and the second of these even specifically brings back the introductory progression. From this point forward, that progression will emerge as a kind of matrix, or referential source. Geibel's second stanza takes a repetition of the music for his first, such that a varied strophic form seems underway; but now the pianist's interlude at mm. 18-21 extends the dominant-7th as goal, while introducing a new, double-neighbor figure that allows for pitch-specific returns of the introductory progression in diminution. The original antecedent phrase returns yet again at mm. 22-25, but then a new model-sequence phrase (mm. 26-29) carries us via descending step into the distant, inward realm of flat-III (C-flat major), the key for the swan's song. At this point the strophic form opens into something more comparable to the bar form--A-A-B, as in "Mondnacht": although an entire fourth stanza awaits its setting, you will hear, I think, that Geibel's third and fourth stanzas merge, for good textural reasons, to create just one expansive third part. While Betsy and I perform this one last song together, I invite you especially to note how pervasive the material of the pianist's interlude at mm. 18ff now becomes from m. 30 onward. (We PERFORM the song.)

[27] To say the obvious, nothing could be more diametrically opposed to the notion of "coming home" in music than a piece that refuses to achieve tonal closure; but nothing could have been more appropriate in the context of Geibel's poem. Like the swan who circles round and round the flower, singing for all his life but getting nowhere, Clara's song ends by coming full circle, by floating back to where it began; there can be no homecoming here, no resolution, because the poem itself ends midstream: we'll never know whether the lotus blossom succumbs to the swan or remains indifferent to him. It's tempting to propose that Clara Schumann's ending is even more daring than her husband's at the end of the first song of his cycle Dichterliebe: whereas Robert's dominant-7th in F# minor is given a momentary, albeit false, sense of resolution at the beginning of his second song, in A major, Clara's "Die stille Lotosblume" is the very last of a group of six. But there is no indication that Clara thought of her Op. 13 collection as a "cycle"--to be performed complete, with Song 6 as the last; moreover, historians have stressed that even those opuses by Robert which we've come to think of as song cycles, or piano cycles, were hardly ever performed as such during his lifetime.(28) On the other hand, unless a performance of "Die stille Lotosblume" were to be followed by something, preferably in A-flat major, its ending is unsettling.

[28] Clara's song demonstrates one of various ways in which the closing of a movement can avoid creating the effect of a homecoming. But let me remind you that in no way do I equate mere home-tonic cadential closure--a staple of the tonal repertoire--with "coming home." On the contrary, for example, Robert's "Ave Maria" moment serves as a postscript to his song's definitive cadence. Nor do "homecomings" require the formal setting of a coda. The arrival "nach Haus" in "Mondnacht" coincides with the act of closing, rather than with the coda that follows. On the matter of "homecoming" as closure or post-closure, the next piece I consider might be a genuine borderline case.

[29] I turn here to the very first piece by Robert Schumann that I studied as a young pianist--his Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18, from 1839. In fact my brother, who is here today, might just remember this piece as one of the many that often competed with Chicago White Sox games on the TV in our childhood living room. The closing passage of the Arabeske might also very well be the original source of my fascination over all these years with closings in Schumann that would seem to evoke longings to "come home." You'll find the passage in question at the end of Example 6; please note that Schumann marks this not as a "Coda," but rather "Zum Schluss." In his marvelous "performer's analysis" of the Arabeske, from 1996, my friend Charles Fisk astutely reminds us that in translation "Zum Schluss"--"In Closing"--"suggests the idea of cadential articulation much more strongly than does the term ‘coda'--tail"; in other words, "Zum Schluss" implies the process of moving towards closure, rather than reflecting upon a closure already achieved. Like me, Fisk hears this passage as one that brings resolution, particularly in the realm of register; he also holds that the passage "still searches for something," that it even "pleads" to "keep the music open."(29) Let me amplify Fisk's views, while introducing a few of my own.

[30] First to the matter of register, as this relates to formal design. The Arabeske takes the form of a modest, five-part rondo--A-B-A-C-A; it is thus most likely the "Rondolette" Robert tells Clara he has composed, in a letter from Vienna during his six-month stay there in 1838-39.(30) As shown in the score at the beginning of Example 6, the rondo refrain itself--the A-section--is cast as a small ternary. I'll propose that the refrain opens with a presentation-type phrase whose model-sequence design allows the theme to strive upward to the high G-natural at m. 8. As scale-degree 5^, this tone in that register becomes for me the primary tone of the movement; but you'll note that there is no Urlinie-like descent from it in the passage that follows. We might want to tease out a descent in the lower register over the span of the cadential phrase (mm. 9-12) and its varied repetition (mm. 13-16); but the retention of scale-degree 5^ at the cadence suggests that fundamental closure has not been achieved. (PLAY: mm. 1-16).

[31] At mm. 17-24, a short, wistful, contrasting-middle phrase twice explores the mediant, E minor (iii), but then twice moves with a ritardando to the tonicized dominant (PLAY). After this, the entire first part of the rondo refrain returns. And that is exactly what will happen with each subsequent appearance of the refrain--the complete passage at mm. 1-40 will return unchanged. Word has it that Schumann often sat dreamily at the keyboard and played favorite passages of his music over and over again; it seems that he invites us to do precisely the same with his rondo theme.

[32] As Fisk observes, the first episode, the Minore I that begins at m. 41, opens by transforming the E-minor idea at m. 17 and then repeating it twice, "each time more intensely, as if the music cannot get away from it."(31) (PLAY) Let me add that the first part of Minore I quickly regains the primary tone G-natural, now as 3^ within E minor, and then provides a stepwise descent from it, in tenths with the bass; but the descent passes through F-natural rather than F#, and the goal of the descent is nothing more than the implied D# at the Phrygian half cadence in m. 48. Pretending to be a refrain within a smaller rondo-within-the-rondo, the opening phrase of Minore I returns twice; in fact the episode ends with that phrase, again arriving at the half cadence in E minor at m. 88. If the Minore I has introduced a "conflicting stratum of experience" relative to the more serene rondo refrain, then the retransition that follows attempts a reconciliation.(32) But the effort seems arduous, and maybe even unsuccessful: everything about this passage--its constant fluctuations in tempo, its loose model-sequence design, its utterly unstable tonal plan, its unresolved dominant-7ths and 6/4 chords--all this points precariously, at least for me, to a kind of futile groping towards an unclear goal. Indeed, as the ultimate harmonic link back to the rondo refrain, the Neapolitan at mm. 102 appears pianissimo out of the blue; it is approached via tritone in the bass. When the refrain finally gets underway again at m. 105, there's the sense that a very dark cloud has lifted. (PLAY: mm. 81-106.)

[33] Fisk hears a synthesis of rondo theme, first episode, and retransition within the Minore II, which begins at m. 144.(33) Begging his pardon, I instead sense even greater conflict here. Now we have the first unaccompanied forte version of the rondo theme's initial upbeat gesture--the arabesque-like flourish of neighbor motive with grace-note. Its dotted rhythm now pervades this episode's accompaniment; what results is a gruff, defiant character, until here quite foreign to the movement. (PLAY: mm. 145-52). As you've just heard, the first part of this episode begins and ends in the submediant, A minor, and then it takes a repetition. The second part (mm. 153-160), also repeated, forcefully works its way through an ascending-5ths sequence to close in E minor (iii). The final part (mm. 161-68) acts as a "pseudo-reprise": it recapitulates the opening of the episode, but does so in the "wrong" key--E minor, rather than A minor. One advantage of the "wrong" key is that it permits the primary tone G-natural to be regained at m. 163, after which a supported 3^-2^-1^ descent in E minor brings us to the authentic cadence in m. 167, with E-natural in the soprano. And then the rondo theme returns for the last time. But for the first time, the E-natural at the end of Minore II supplies the hitherto unstated tone that leads to the theme's F-natural in its fourth bar. (PLAY: mm. 161-72.)

[34] Finally, let's turn to "Zum Schluss." You'll immediately recognize that the slower-moving half-note rhythm of its soprano melody, reverberating in syncopation an octave below, refers back to that troubled retransition (at mm. 89-104). But here the tonal tension of that earlier passage is being resolved: like a typical coda, the "Zum Schluss" passage follows upon a final cadence in the home key, and there will be no further departures from that key. Remember, however, that the refrain's final cadence does not sufficiently complete an Urlinie descent from the high G-natural. In particular, a supported E-natural, scale-degree 3^, is nowhere to be heard, except by implication, and in the wrong register, at m. 208. Surely that factor explains in part what makes the appoggiatura motion E-D at the beginning of the "Zum Schluss" seem so "right" and yet so poignant. Perhaps now an Urlinie descent will be completed from the E; and thus maybe this passage, like the coda in the first movement of Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata, will be the type of coda that doesn't really stand outside the fundamental structure of the movement as a whole; in other words, maybe that's what "Zum Schluss" means here.

[35] Could it be that the E-D gesture, thrice repeated and each time expanded, with each of its tones taking dissonant support, pleads not to "keep the music open," but rather to achieve a close--that is, to "bring the music home"? Listen especially to the extraordinary effect of release, and relief, when, finally--at mm. 215-16--the E-D motive--augmented, no less--at least attains a half cadence! In the final phrase, the music does indeed find a C-natural at m. 219; but the submediant harmony here denies this tone a structural role, and instead, the melody moves back into the lower register. One last, heart-rending appoggiatura chord at m. 221 underscores a remarkable augmentation in the soprano of the rondo refrain's upbeat neighbor-note motive--G-A-G; and then the original motive itself returns to lift the soprano right back to its starting point, the E-natural. So much, then, for an Urlinie closure; here is a closing that remains melodically open. In his commentary about the plight of the main character in Ludwig Tieck's novel Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, the literary critic Marshall Brown says: "There is no return home in this world, there is only moving forward. And moving forward means moving away from home and childhood, away from idyllic, self-centered ease, and out into the complexities of the world."(34) The "Zum Schluss" passage of the Arabeske seems to know this; it yearns to close, but in the end it finds the courage to point away from home and into the future. (PLAY: Zum Schluss.)

[36] An irony here is that the Arabeske has been regarded by some as verging in the direction of Hausmusik--music for performance in the home, rather than in the concert hall or the salon; one of the reasons I was playing the Arabeske at an early age is because it's not at all technically difficult. By 1839 Clara, ever shrewd (even at age 20) about what audiences wanted to hear her play, found herself begging Robert to write simpler, more accessible piano music--"easily understandable, and something without titles … not too long and not too short."(35) Anthony Newcomb has argued that around this time Robert himself came to recognize the need to change direction: the intensely subjective, often "eccentric," technically demanding, sometimes harmonically "harsh" and rhythmically experimental piano works of his youthful 1830s just weren't selling, nor would even Clara risk trying to present them to an unprepared public.(36) It happens, however, that, among the works by Schumann that I list at Figure 2 as candidates for further investigation into closings that suggest "coming home," two of these--the Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17, and the slightly later Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6--exemplify the undeniably romantic style Robert eventually felt obliged to modify. In particular, there is no other piece by Robert Schumann that more consummately proceeds in a trajectory towards "home" than his Fantasie, Op. 17. Moreover, and as Berthold Hoeckner's claims, the Fantasie has "enjoyed perhaps the richest reception of any romantic piano work, having become, in a sense, a monument to Romanticism. Interpretations of the first movement, especially, have drawn upon quintessential categories of romantic aesthetics: fragment, Witz, and arabesque."(37) One of the many contributions Hoeckner's recent work on the Fantasie makes is his critical engagement with the views of an illustrious list of writers since the late 1980s who have addressed (or readdressed) this piece; these include John Daverio, Linda Roesner, Charles Rosen, Anthony Newcomb, and Nicholas Marston, whose Cambridge Music Handbook on the Fantasie, from 1992, is impressive. I think I can assume that most of you are fairly well acquainted both with Schumann's Fantasie and with the work of some one or more of those writers. But no other work by Schumann could serve so well today as a culminating, and final, example of my topic, and so I ask you to bear with me.

[37] As you probably know, Robert composed the first version of this work as a "Sonata for Beethoven," in the hope that money from its sales could be contributed towards the monument of Beethoven that was to be erected in Bonn. But the inception of the work, in 1836, also coincided with the period of greatest estrangement between Robert and Clara; her father had insisted that she return all of Robert's letters and never see him again. Two years later, and now referring to the work as a "fantasy," Robert tells Clara that its first movement, originally titled "Ruins," is "probably the most passionate thing I have ever written--a deep lament for you."(38) Though there remain a few doubting Thomases,(39) most connoisseurs of the Fantasie have long agreed that the first movement is based upon a reference to the beginning of the last song from Beethoven's cycle An die ferne Geliebte, shown at Example 7. The text given here will remind you that this is the cycle in which the poet strives to surmount the spatial and temporal distance between himself and his beloved by singing songs of love and then asking her to sing them back to him; accordingly, the last song not only begins with a variant of the first song but then also cyclically recapitulates the first song, at the very point where the poet hopes that his beloved has begun to sing. Schumann's allusion to Beethoven's cycle creates the perfect union of professional goal and private aspiration: he pays tribute to Beethoven by quoting him, but at the same time he has Beethoven's distant beloved secretly refer to Clara, to whom he sends all his love and sorrow through his music.(40)

[38] Hoeckner goes further than anyone to date in tracing fragments of both the first and the last of Beethoven's songs within Schumann's first movement. Under the constraints of time today, I'll focus only on the two most well-known ideas that Schumann appropriates, the ones labeled a and b in the score at Example 7. You'll see that I've reversed a and b here, because that's what Schumann will do. In a, note especially the motion through the interval of a 5th to and from the A-natural, scale-degree 6^, as harmonized by the progression from ii 6/5 to V (PLAY Ex. 7; then immediately play the opening of Schumann's Fantasie, at Ex. 8).

[39] The large-scale form of the Fantasie's first movement has been endlessly debated; but I think we might agree that a sonata-like Transition begins at m. 29 and leads to the first stage of a two-part, modulating secondary theme (ST), whose initial key--D minor--perhaps refers back to that gorgeous ii-chord over dominant pedal at the movement's opening. Certainly the key of D minor helps to sustain focus upon the A-natural with which the main theme (MT) began, now even giving it consonant support. Please note the transformed return of both the a- and the b-idea; then the entire ST takes a restatement in, of all the "nonclassical" ST-keys, the subdominant, F major, beginning at m. 61. First comes a newly interpreted version of a, then b, as follows. (PLAY: mm.60-81 )

[40] By far the most remote, even disguised, version of the b-idea interrupts the narrative of the famous Im Legendenton passage, not shown here--the central passage that has thwarted sonata-form interpretations of the movement. After that passage, a recapitulation of sorts begins with the Transition materials from the exposition, and now the two-fold ST returns transposed down a step: that is, it begins in the home tonic minor and then moves into E-flat major--Beethoven's original home key in An die ferne Geliebte. For those on the inside track, the fundamental direction of the movement now begins to emerge. Everything is leading inexorably to a revelation at the very end: the Adagio at m. 295 quotes the b-idea in its clearest, most Beethoven-like form, and in doing this, it closes the movement with the first and only authentic cadence in C major. Charles Rosen puts it best: Schumann doesn't just allude to Beethoven's ideas, he absorbs these, to the point where it sounds as if he had composed them himself. The allusion to Beethoven within the Adagio "appears not as a reminiscence of another composer, but as at once the source and the solution of everything in the music--up to that final page.… the entire movement … is a preparation for, and development of, the concluding phrase," "which serves as the point of rest and the center of gravity."(41) In short, here is Schumann's most complex, most elaborate "homecoming," second only to the one he will achieve at the end of his Fantasie as a whole. (PLAY: mm. 274-309.)

[41] Schumann originally planned to recapitulate the end of his first movement at the end of his last movement, but he changed his mind. Rosen insists on the effectiveness of Schumann's original plan and performs the last movement accordingly. I vote on Schumann's ultimate ending, shown at Example 9b. No blatant cyclicism here; instead something much more moving--for its subtlety, and because now the music celebrates a homecoming over the distant span of the complete three-movement work. A circle within a circle is closed here: the texture and harmonic progression beginning at m. 130 bring us back to the beginning of the movement (see Ex. 9a), and the pervasive neighbor motion G-A-G clearly remembers the opening of the first movement. It even regains the register of that initial A-natural, whose appearances in so many different contexts throughout the piece suggest to me that this tone is the technical representative of the secret "leiser Ton" from Friedrich Schlegel's motto at the top of the first movement's score. The end of the Fantasie may just be one of the great musical homecomings of all time. (PLAY: end of last movement.)

[42] In an article bent on comparing the healthy, successful career of Felix Mendelssohn with the troubled one of Robert Schumann, Michael P. Steinberg portrays Schumann as "spiritually homeless"; Schumann's concern for "bourgeois identity and respectability, … masculine propriety and control," all part of an inward-directed North German cultural identity, prevented him from sustaining a consistent compositional "voice" of his own. Such piano works as the "esoteric" Fantasie are for Steinberg "the site of the private, the secret, the heimlich, and thereby also of the unheimlich, or uncanny and terrifying."(42) Yes, Schumann's music knows terror, and for good reason: from his late teens onward, he lived in the terror of going mad one day. And, yes, music like the Fantasie is wildly esoteric. One of the really gripping details about Schumann is that the music we pianists in particular regard as some of his greatest ever written was later dismissed by him as "immature and unfinished": in 1843 he says, "the man and the musician in me were always trying to express themselves simultaneously; no doubt that remains so, although I have learned to control myself and also my art better."(43) Steinberg notwithstanding, I'll propose that the closing moments of no other composer know better how to convey a longing for home, and sometimes its imaginative attainment, even if, as Gyorgy Lukacs has said, "longing has never had a home."(44) And so, I am very grateful for the chance to come home to Schumann today.

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Janet Schmalfeldt
Tufts University
Department of Music
48 Professors Row
Medford, MA 02155

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