Gretchen Am Spinnrade: The Correlation With The Music Of Schubert

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Schubert verified his extraordinary musicality while at the age of seventeen, he wrote one of the most groundbreaking and dynamic pieces in lieder history (Huizenga). This brilliant Austrian composer began his compositions at age ten, but rapidly progressed to compose the art song, Gretchen am Spinnrade. The text came from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust and rewritten to music composed by Schubert. This dramatic work was composed in 1814, during the classical period of music. Written in 6/8 this melody finds a dancing pattern similar to a waltz. Perhaps this alludes to the maidens this to dance with her love. Beginning in the key of D minor, this composition reveals its drama with its drastic key changes, dynamic tempo variants and…show more content…
Within this one piece, there are officially two characters which play into the music directly: The spinning wheel and Gretchen. At the beginning of the piece, the music begins simply with the turning sixteenth note pattern of the piano in correlation with her spinning wheel. The notes in the treble clef rhythmically flow up and down in an arpeggiated pattern. Simultaneously, the bass clef moves in a tapping articulation with eighth notes and a droning pedal tone by a dotted half note. Collectively, the sound extremely similar to the noises of a bobbin clattering on a spinning wheel. When Gretchen begins her long list of the marbles of her lover, the music builds for a very long “crescendo poco a poco” which lasts for five measures (mm. 55-60). Then continuing to build from a forte (mm. 60), the list continues to build until Gretchen reaches a double forte with sforzando accent right before singing “Kuss”. The wheel stops and the singer is lost in her own thoughts. Accordingly, James Tarbotton stated that this moment allows, “Gretchen 's voice to shine through and all her emotions to be concentrated on the kiss she 's sharing with Faust; Almost as if her heart has stopped.” Then, very slowly, the spinning piano pattern of the wheel slowly begins before returning to its original rhythm. Taking a broader look at this piece, this song could either be called a loose ternary form or a rondo form. Some could consider this composition a loose ternary art song because of the returning theme after the third and sixth stanza. However, if we were to take a literal definition of ternary form, we could disagree by stating that the returning theme does not come back in a related key. It simply returns in the original key each time. This piece is more easily defined and a Rondo form:

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