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WOLF, IN DER FRUHE

Source: Singapore Piano Shop & Music Book Online Shop   Published: 7/3/2020 5:51:57 AM   Clicked: 312

Hugo Wolf ’s song In der Fr¨uhe, no. 24 of his M¨orike-Lieder, provides an even more distinctive example of music which progresses from diatonic content at the outset toward chromatic common-tone language at the end (Ex. 9.3). The song possesses a remarkable bipartite structure whose first half depends on stepwise motion and fifth relations, and whose second half depends solely on a mixture of juxtaposed chromatic third relations. In terms both of the work itself and in the context of Wolf ’s stylistic norms, it becomes clear that the song’s harmonic content is carefully designed to convey the meaning of its text. The first half of M¨orike’s poem is dark, depicting the end of a sleepless night during which the narrator tosses and turns without respite from tortured thoughts. In contrast, the poem’s second half is bright,


Example 9.3 Wolf, In der Fr¨uhe, second half



affirming the joy and release from worry brought by the arrival of the new day, announced by the sound of morning bells.


Harmonic structure in the first half of the song is determined for the most part by a stepwise descending bass line beginning from tonic D minor. From there the music moves down (with a trudging effect) by a series of chromatically enhanced pedal points directly through C major and B major triads, the latter tonicized by its dominant. One more stepwise descent leads to a new phrase on A minor, beginning in m. 6 with similar material to the opening. ThusWolf begins this section by filling in the downward interval from tonic to dominant, with the conspicuous use of chromatic B major rather than diatonic B  major. Once on A, the music forgoes 248 Chromatic transformations in nineteenth-century music stepwise motion and moves immediately down an additional fourthto E minor at

m. 8, where it lingers on another pedal. The deviation to B major is now understood to anticipate the dominant of E minor, which remains until the end of the section.


In a one-measure transition at m. 10, the bass moves again, ending on C, which now supports a German augmented-sixth chord. This chord resolves directly back to its tonic a measure later without intervening chords in a direct LFM–tonic progression (M−1), of a type discussed above in section 8.3.2, Figure 8.9. At this point the tone of the text completely changes from anguish to optimism, and in response E minor is transformed into E major. In the world of this poem, what goes down must come up: the music continues to rise from this moment in a series of pedal points, all connected by chromatic mediants in direct juxtaposition, first to G major (m−1) in m. 14, then to B  major (m−1) in m. 18, and finally to D major (M−1) in m. 20. Most of this section, from m. 11 to m. 19, describes an incomplete ascending circle of minor thirds, broken only by the appearance of tonic D major in m. 20.


The network diagram of Figure 9.8 shows the overall transformational structure of the song. Two descending fifth relations linking minor triads anchor the first half, with the first descent significantly expanded by disjunct stepwise motion, whose relative roughness is implicit in its binary transformation formulas. Such incremental downward motion against a minor-mode backdrop mirrors the text’s depiction of the agonizing passage of time accompanying a bout of insomnia. An ascending cycle of mixed chromatic third relations between major triads governs the second half, proceeding by a major third, then two minor thirds, and again by major third. The gradual rise (literal in the bass) and major-mode background convey the text’s shift of mood from despondency to glad relief. Furthermore, the intrinsic nature of chromatic third relations contributes strongly to this effect. The greater harmonic distance they cover in relation to the fifth relations and step progressions prominent earlier in the song genuinely conveys the effect of quick elevation of spirit. Moreover, whereas many of the significant progressions in the first half are disjunct step relations,


Figure 9.8 Network diagram for Wolf ’s In der Fr¨uhe



conveying a sense of effortful passage from one to the next, every element in the rising cycle of the second half is a common-tone progression. Wolf ’s setting brings out this difference; the stepwise moves sound uncomfortable and earthbound, while the third relations sound smooth and ethereal. The first of these, the mood- (and mode-) changing augmented-sixth resolution to E major at m. 11, is literally uplifting and particularly dramatic.


While the unequal intervals of the rising third-cycle may appear unorganized at first, each chord is exactly the right one for its spot. E major, of course, is the continuation of the tonic which ended the previous section; the parallel-mode relation allows for the best perception of this critical moment in the poem. It also allows for a parallelism between local P here at the midpoint of the song and overall P between beginning and end. G major, B  major, and D major, the chords that follow, all share common tone D, providing a continuity that firmly fixes the final arrival to the major tonic. However, this outcome is not otherwise expected, given the sequentially rising circle of minor thirds that precedes it, with each successive common tone prominent in the upper voice of the piano accompaniment, above the vocal line, at the moment of juxtaposition. This m−1 succession E–G–B  strongly suggests D as its continuation withF as common tone. Instead, Wolf maintains the previous

progression’s common tone, D, which produces M−1. Accordingly, the upper voice of the piano, which had moved to F as if it were to be the next common tone, is obliged to move up by semitone to F . This highly palpable change underscores the dramatic climax of the song: the move to D major accompanies the text gl¨ocken (contained in the compound word Morgengl¨ocken), the bells which signify release from suffering.7


There are some structural references to the first section contained in the second. The upward filling-in by third-arpeggiation of the interval from G to D (D−1) counterbalances the earlier downward filling-in of the interval from D to A (also D−1) by stepwise motion. Also, the appearance of B  major in the latter section makes up for its earlier absence and counterbalances the appearance of B major in the first section: each has its root on the locally mode-contrary sixth scale degree.


Without a doubt the sound of the mediant relations is intimately linked to the meaning of the text. The augmented-sixth M−1 resolution at m. 11 initiates the impression of spiritual lifting up more than any fifth relation could. The labored descent by disjunct steps and bland fourths contrasts sharply and clearly with the swift, sweetly dramatic rise by common-tone third relations. It would be most counterproductive to think of these last as alterations, colorations, or combinations when

their intent and structural relationships are so clear, and when their effect so directly conveys the sense of the poem.


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