In Search of Remembered Time: Textual Dialogue and Musical Discourse in Schubert's Instrumental Music
Schubert’s instrumental music, in particular his movements in sonata form, have long been recognized as following a different kind of realization than Beethoven’s. By contrast with Beethoven’s strongly declarative style in his middle period works, Schubert’s have a different kind of ‘voice’, in two senses of the word: one is that their predominantly lyrical quality makes them more like “songs without words”, to use Mendelssohn’s phrase; the other, which is proposed here, is that they contain an “inner voice” or narrative, that draws on Schubert’s Lieder as a kind of ‘memory bank’. Through metaphor and allusion, in ways that interpret the poetic ideas of Herder and Goethe, Schubert’s instrumental music recreates the expressive worlds of his songs, which frequently use a poetic image as a hinge between temporal worlds. This image acts as a ‘mémoire’ that opens the door to the past. Rather than trying to depict events from his biographical past in a literal sense, the music recreates instead expressive moods, such as longing, hope and despair, that delineate the inner life journey, and in which we can identify our own. Through its re-interpretation of formal techniques, such as side-slipping a semitone or enharmonic connections, Schubert’s instrumental music opens up affective domains in which, in a fragmented world, we can not only recapture time past but also, as a magical transformation, savor it as time regained.
Keywords: Compositional technique, Narrative and voice, Form, Meaning, Metaphor, Listening, Memory, Allusion
Dr. Barbara Barry
Professor of Musicology, Conservatory of Music, Lynn University