Retracing a Winter's Journey: Schubert's Winterreise

Overview

I like these songs better than all the rest, and someday you will too, Franz Schubert told the friends who were the first to hear his song cycle, Winterreise. These lieder have always found admiring audiences, but the poetry he chose to set them to has been widely regarded as weak and trivial. In Retracing a Winter's Journey, Susan Youens looks not only at Schubert's music but at the poetry, drawn from the works of Wilhelm Müller, who once wrote in his diary, "perhaps there is a kindred spirit somewhere who will ...

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Overview

I like these songs better than all the rest, and someday you will too, Franz Schubert told the friends who were the first to hear his song cycle, Winterreise. These lieder have always found admiring audiences, but the poetry he chose to set them to has been widely regarded as weak and trivial. In Retracing a Winter's Journey, Susan Youens looks not only at Schubert's music but at the poetry, drawn from the works of Wilhelm Müller, who once wrote in his diary, "perhaps there is a kindred spirit somewhere who will hear the tunes behind the words and give them back to me!"

Youens maintains that Müller, in depicting the wanderings of the alienated lover, produced poetry that was simple but not simple-minded, poetry that embraced simplicity as part of its meaning. In her view, Müller used the ruder folk forms to give his verse greater immediacy, to convey more powerfully the wanderer's complex inner state. Youens addresses many different aspects of Winterreise: the cultural milieu to which it belonged, the genesis of both the poetry and the music, Schubert's transformation of poetic cycle into music, the philosophical dimension of the work, and its musical structure.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is the definitive book on the subject, by one of the world's leading lieder scholars."—Time Out New York

"Susan Youens displays a rare ability at making penetrating comments on both poetry and music, as well as their interrelationship, and her book is full of interesting observations of details easily overlooked by those who have not studied the song cycle closely."—Times Higher Education Supplement

"Susan Youens's Retracing a Winter's Journey is the most successful and appealing of the various recent studies of Winterreise. Youens is a true Schubertian, able to find the subtlety of the cycle and to take the reader through it in a way that broadens the understanding regardless of how familiar one may be with the work. She pays special attention to the texts, interpreting Müller's various images with a skill born of wide knowledge of the poet's other works as well as those of his contemporaries, and proceeding to an illumination of the role and importance of the texts in the musical setting. . . . The author's lucid and elegant writing never allows one to falter through the retracing of this fascinating journey."—Music and Letters

"This is a book of considerable importance. Given the quantity of distinguished writing about Schubert's great song-cycle it is the author's outstanding achievement to have written a study that for scope, insight, and sheer readability eclipses previous responses to the challenge. . . . Youens combines to a degree as rare as it is admirable the sensitivities and deep knowledge of literary historian and musicologist."—German History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801499661
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/5/1991
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Youens is J. W. Van Gorkom Professor of Music at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of several books, including Heine and the Lied; Schubert's Late Lieder: Beyond the Song Cycles; and Hugo Wolf and his Mörike Songs.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Part I. The Poet and the Composer

1. Genesis and Sources
2. The Texts of Winterreise
3. The Music of Winterreise

Part II. The Songs

1. Gute Nacht
2. Die Wetterfahne
3. Gefror'ne Tränen
4. Erstarrung
5. Der Lindenbaum
6. Wasserflut
7. Auf dem Fluße
8. Rückblick
9. [Das] Irrlicht
10. Rast
11. Frühlingstraum
12. Einsamkeit
13. Die Post
14. Der greise Kopf
15. Die Krähe
16. Letzte Hoffnung
17. Im Dorfe
18. Der stürmische Morgen
19. Täuschung
20. Der Wegweiser
21. Das Wirtshaus
22. Mut
23. Die Nebensonnen
24. Der Leiermann

Postlude

Appendix. Ludwig Uhland's Wander-Lieder

Selected Bibliography
Index

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