The shadow of midnight in Schubert's 'Gondelfahrer' settings

Bretherton, David T. (2011) The shadow of midnight in Schubert's 'Gondelfahrer' settings Music & Letters, 92, (1), pp. 1-42. (doi:10.1093/ml/gcq087).


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Eduard von Bauernfeld’s poem ‘Ein Wiener Censor’ attests to Johann Mayrhofer’s belief in freedom, nationhood, and equality, and confirms that dangerously radical politics were a topic of conversation among Franz Schubert’s circle. Susan Youens suggests that Mayrhofer’s poem ‘Es tanzen Mond und Sterne’ has a politically subversive subtext concerning the suppression of Carbonari radicals in Austrian-controlled Venice, and so reflects his radical political beliefs. This article provides a detailed comparative analysis of Schubert’s Gondelfahrer (D808) and Der Gondelfahrer (D809), both of which set ‘Es tanzen Mond und Sterne’, and, after exploring the historical context, argues that while D809 offers an apparently innocent surface reading of the poem’s text, D808 instead gives voice to its proposed politically subversive subtext. Interpretation of the settings hinges on Schubert’s representation of the tolling of midnight using the flattened submediant, and the fact that ‘Mitternacht’ was the nickname earned by Chancellor Klemens von Metternich for his espousal of oppressive policies in Austrian-controlled territories and beyond.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1093/ml/gcq087
ISSNs: 0027-4224 (print)

ePrint ID: 182629
Date :
Date Event
February 2011Published
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2011 09:17
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 02:25
Further Information:Google Scholar

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