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Returning CyclesContexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last Sonatas$
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Charles Fisk

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520225640

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520225640.001.0001

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Schubert after Winterreise

(p.1) Prologue
Returning Cycles

Joseph Kerman

University of California Press

This chapter begins with the author's recollections of how the questions addressed in this study of Schubert's piano music stemmed from his own desire to understand and to deepen his sense of identification with this music while playing it. It then considers whether Schubert's work on Winterreise intensified, or even reawakened, a cyclic impulse earlier revealed most explicitly in the “Wanderer” Fantasy, leading to a proliferation of new cyclic experiments, some of them drawing on techniques first explored in the fantasy. The chapter suggests that the aimlessness and futility of the winter journey—the almost random succession of its scenes and the failure of the wanderer to achieve even the death he seeks—preclude the manifest cyclicism either of explicit motivic and thematic recollection or of any tonal reinforcement of closure in Winterreise. But its protagonist's alienated predicament may still have linked him in Schubert's mind with “Der Wanderer,” and thus indirectly with the musical homecoming of that figure in the “Wanderer” Fantasy. A brief exploration of this theme of the Winterreise poetry and of its musical expression in the song cycle suggests why Schubert might have needed, after completing the cycle, to find a companion figure for this protagonist.

Keywords:   Schubert, piano music, song cycle, Winterreise, Wanderer Fantasy

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