ABSTRACT

This chapter focuses on the “agitato” as it appears in several settings of Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt. The purposeful and contextual treatment of one topical type in multiple settings of the same text by different composers – some of whom are well known, some of whom are not – enables a comparative approach that gives how the nuances of individual topical tokens are used to articulate a reading of the text and how awareness of these nuances can inform performative choices. Since being established as a key component of musicological discourse, the theory of musical topics has invigorated the understanding of music signification by exploring how, as musical signs, they consistently cue expressive meanings and how the patterning of their supple play shapes interpretation. In early 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven was invited to contribute a lied on a text by Johann Wolfgang Goethe for inclusion in the literary journal Prometheus.