Music of the Romantic Era

Answer the essay below in complete sentences, using musical examples from works studied in class to illustrate your main points. Please write your essay in an organized manner, and address the questions in the order in which they appear below, in order to ensure full credit for your essay. Your essay should be a minimum of one page (12-point Times New Roman type).


Schubert was an incredibly prolific composer of songs for voice and piano. Considering that he died so young, at the age of 31, when he was only 18 years old, he composed 144 songs. During our class discussions, we have focused on the word-music relationship in his songs, and the ways in which he creates characters in each song. Let’s focus in this written assignment on the ways in which Schubert used rhythm, dynamics, melody, and musical form to connect the music with the words. Be sure to include the following significant points in your essay: (1) Briefly describe Schubert’s’childhood and early musical training. (2) Why did Schubert define himself as a “self-supporting composer” and why did this designation differ from that of Beethoven and earlier composers? (3) Was Schubert’s song, “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel,” written early or late in the composer’s career? (4) Let’s focus now on the ways in which Schubert created the character of Gretchen in Goethe’s text. Listen to this work and consider the rhythm, dynamics, melody, and musical form. How do these elements work together to express the over-all mood of the song? (5) How does the piano accompaniment provide a musical backdrop for Gretchen’s troubled emotional state? In your opinion, is the accompaniment effective in helping create Gretchen’s character as she waits for Faust to return? (6) Schubert was constantly looking for poetry to set to music, and he enjoyed setting the poetry of the greatest writers of his time. Among the poets we discussed in class, which one do you think helped Schubert attract the widest audience? (7) Lastly, what purpose did the Schubertiads serve in terms of Schubert’s professional life and success in Vienna? Were these musical evenings an important venue in the city’s musical life? Why or why not? (8) In your opinion, did Schubert successfully turn poetry into music? Give one reason for your answer.

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