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Rethinking Schumann$
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Roe-Min Kok and Laura Tunbridge

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195393859

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393859.001.0001

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Schumann's Melodramatic Afterlife

Schumann's Melodramatic Afterlife

(p.157) 9 Schumann's Melodramatic Afterlife
Rethinking Schumann

Ivan Raykoff

Oxford University Press

Schumann's declamation ballades, published in 1853, provide a starting point to explore the declamatory or rhetorical gestures in his piano music as well as the larger historical context of melodrama as both a compositional technique and a cultural aesthetic. In these three pieces for narrator and piano accompaniment, Schumann reduces the traditional melodrama's orchestral underscoring to the piano alone, removing them from the dramatic realm of opera and theater music to the more poetic world of the Lied. The declamation ballades also shed light on Schumann's uses of speech mode to imitate or approximate verbal utterance or dramatic elocution in his piano writing. This chapter considers the earlier historical tradition of musical oratory as it may have informed Schumann's creative imagination, as in those moments when “the poet speaks” through his music. It also addresses melodrama's ubiquitous afterlife in the realm of popular culture and the extensive role that “speaking through music” still plays in the context of other art forms that make use of Schumann's music, particularly literature and cinema.

Keywords:   melodrama, rhetoric, declamation, musical underscoring, piano, poet, literature, cinema

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