chapter  2
57 Pages

Franz Schubert: The Lied Transformed

WithSusan Youens

The word lied immediately calls Schubert’s name to mind, before Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, or anyone else. This is not because of chronological pride of place (his predecessors and contemporaries wrote songs) or even the staggering size of his oeuvre (Johann Friedrich Reichardt produced a more elephantine body of song), but because of the quality of the music and the transformation of received genres. In his brief creative career, Schubert endowed both the lied and the song cycle with a profundity and complexity they lacked-with a few exceptions-until he began “indefatigably” to compose songs.1 Later composers would look to Schubert as their Ur-ancestor, the “Shakespeare of song.” Although both older and new research demonstrates that Schubert did not spring fully formed from Jove’s head (Alberti-Radonowicz 1923, Friedländer 1902, Parsons 2004, West 1989), he overshadowed those who came before him in his passion for poetry and the brilliance with which he transmuted it into music. The sum of his harmonic originality, capacity for melodic beauty (or abdication of tunefulness in the service of musico-poetic revelation), and sophisticated “readings” of poetry constitute nothing less than a new aesthetic of the lied (see Capell 1973, Georgiades 1967, L. Kramer 1986, Reed 1985).