Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Reynolds, Christopher Alan. “Contrastive Allusions.” In Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music, 68-88. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Robert Schumann’s musical work had a penchant for contrastive illusion, in which the borrowed materials in a musical work allude to another in a manner that contrast with the meaning and function of the original source. Schumann uses contrastive allusion in two ways: one method in which both text and music is contrasted, and a second type where the music is stylistically different from the source but retains its original meaning. This first type is exhibited in the song cycle Dichterliebe, and the song Schlußlied des Narren. Schumann based the first song of Dichterliebe, “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,” on the aria “Euch werde Lohn in Bessren” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, and the poetry of Mendelssohn’s Faustian cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht. While the aria is not overtly present in the final version of the song, noteworthy are the phrases borrowed from Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht. Both Schumann’s and Mendelssohn’s works share musical material, particularly harmonic and phrase structure, but Schumann’s work is contrastive because it reflects opposites for text, tempi, dynamics, and articulation compared to the source. Similarly, in the song Schlußlied des Narren, Schumann alludes to the symbolic interaction between a father and child in Schubert’s Erlkönig. However, Schumann’s allusions to Schubert’s work are more aligned textually than musically.

The second type of contrastive allusion can allude to multiple works, including short motives, as observed in Schumann’s Vogel als Prophet. In this song, Schumann uses the common diatonic motive 1-7-2-1-4-3, as found in the chanson Mon fils est là by Pierre Joseph Guillaume Zimmermann, and in Snart er Natten svunden by J. P. E. Hartmann, to depict a mood closely related to the original meaning. In the middle section of the song, Schumann self-quotes, particularly from his Szenen aus Goethes Faust, to represent the bird in the song. Vogel als Prophet also alludes to Mendessohn’s Im Walde, which represents the prophet in the song. This use suggests a more assimilative allusion because of the way Schumann imitates the character of the song. Multiple allusions allowed Schumann to communicate a specific message to those who would recognize his references in the future.

Works: Robert Schumann: “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48 (70-72), 5 Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 127 (72-75), Waldszenen, Op. 82 (77-81); Max Bruch: Normannenzug, Op. 32 (81).

Sources: Beethoven: Fidelio (70); Mendelssohn: Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op. 60 (70); Schubert: Die Erlkönig, D. 328 (74-75); Pierre Joseph Guillaume Zimmermann: Mon fils est là (76); J. P. E. Hartmann: Snart er Natten svunden (76); Robert Schumann: Szenen aus Goethes Faust, WoO 3 (78-79); Mendelssohn: “Im Walde” from 6 Lieder, Op. 41 (79-80).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Nicolette van den Bogerd

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