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Rethinking Schumann$
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Roe-Min Kok and Laura Tunbridge

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195393859

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393859.001.0001

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Intermediate States of Key in Schumann

Intermediate States of Key in Schumann

Chapter:
(p.300) 14 Intermediate States of Key in Schumann
Source:
Rethinking Schumann
Author(s):

David Kopp

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393859.003.0014

Where other major composers of the mid‐19th century are known for harmonic innovation and explorations of chromaticism, Schumann is often cited for his distinctive and unconventional use of key. This chapter investigates a well‐known facet of this aspect of Schumann's harmonic practice: music that, for extended periods, seems not to be in any key, either through indeterminacy or apparent ambiguity. The study begins with a review of influential harmonic theories of Schumann's time, revealing considerable differences regarding the definition and nature of key; A. B. Marx's unconventional conceptualization of keys is of particular interest. Detailed analyses of three pieces—the song “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” from Dichterliebe; the first movement of the String Quartet, Op. 41, no. 1; and the fourth piece of Kreisleriana—are framed in relation to previous scholarship, which treats their episodes of harmonic indeterminacy in detail from diverse formal and analytic viewpoints. As an alternative to customary explanations, and in an attempt to give specificity to harmonic situations that otherwise would be categorized as ambiguous or else resolved analytically in favor of one key over another, a broadening of the idea of key identity is proposed here, allowing for music to be understood not only to be in keys but also to be in intermediate states between them. Other types of intermediate states in Schumann's music are also discussed.

Keywords:   Dichterliebe, Kreisleriana, String Quartet, Op. 41 no. 1, key, ambiguity, tonality, nineteenth‐century harmony, Charles Rosen, Linda Roesner

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