In the last article, we began to talk about “Der Lindenbaum”. Today we go one step further and take a closer look at the song.
“Der Lindenbaum” is part of the song cycle “DieWinterreise”, a soul drama of a lone wanderer.
If you look closely at the text, you will notice that it is divided into four parts.
The first two stanzas describe an amazing idyll, “I dreamed in its shadow…” and reminds of the common past,“In joy and in sorrow…”.
Stanzas three and four tell of the actual experiences. “Again today I had to travel…”. It awakens the longing the tree triggers to find a resting place in the unsteady life of the wanderer,“Here you’ll find peace”.
Suddenly, the wind blows into his face and the hat flew off his head. But the wanderer remains defiant and does not turn around. Instead, he keeps going.
In the sixth verse, the longing comes back. The wanderer is now far way from his beloved tree and yearns for the calm he could find there.
But is it really the tree he is yearning for? Or is it rather the desire to keep wandering with alonging?
Let’s see how Schubert implemented this into his composition.
In the piano prelude (0:00 – 0:25) he creates the idyllic mood of the beginning of the poem. Silent, wave-like up and down triplets represent the gentle rustling of the wind in the leaves of the linden tree. At 0:18 and 0:23 you could think you are hearingbugles in the distance (horn quintets in the piano).
In the first stanza (0:26 – 1:21), the wanderer dreams himself back to the place of his longing. To the place where he spent so much time in “joy and sorrow”. Schubert composed this section in a very simple way. Probably to emphasize the young and “easy” attitude of the protagonist.
In the vocal part he mainly uses tones of the corresponding triads and the rhythm movescalmly and slightly cheerfully. The fact that melody remains even and only changes very slightly adds to the peaceful mood.
The piano also adds to this calm, relaxed mood as well by subordinating itself and playing around the vocals.
In the first interlude, (1:22 – 1:32) the mood changes, yet it sounds very similar to the prelude with the same triplet: pointed eighth, sixteenth, fourth. But to build up tention, the section is reduced to half the beat. The harmony diminishes, from major to minor.
A short note to the modes.
Tones can sound monodically, as a melody, or together as a sound or a chordfor example. We know this from pop music, where the guitar plays the main chords.
Of all sorts of harmonies, two “modes”, major and minor, emerged at the beginning of the Baroque period.
We perceive major as bright and cheerful and is thus mostly used for lively music. Pop songs are also mostly played in major.
Minor, on the other hand, seems dark and melancholy to us. In today’s music it is often used for ballads or sad songs.
We have seen that the music of “Der Lindenbaum” has changed from major to minorin the interlude. At the beginning of the second stanza it still resonates and reaches from“Again today I had to…” to “… closed my eyes” (1:32 – 1:59)during the new harmony.
In the recording it’s very noticeable how Fischer-Dieskau expresses the new mood. How he lowers his head and seems to fall into tribulation.
Schubert’s music was based on the lyrics and the mood of the “deep night” and the “dark”.
In the accompaniment, “walking” is represented by a rolling movement. In my opinion, there is yet a deeper level at this point. The triplet emphasizes the desire to wander, the pointed eighth emphasizes the faltering and the hesitation, whether to not stop or not or to keep going.
With “And its branches…” you return to the idyll. The harmony changes back to major. The piano accompaniment supports the voice in third parallels and thus emphasizes the cheerful mood.
At 2:30, the mood is killed by a Sforzato accent, similar to a sudden thunderbolt. The soft noise of the wind turned into a storm. The triol chains become wilder due to changes and longer intervals between the notes, emphasized by the Sforzati (sudden accentuation) on individual chords.
The vocals are reduced to snatches and repetitions. This is not beautifully sung anymore, but rather a recitation and speech. Perhaps Schubert wanted to express that it is impossible to sing a song in a storm.
In the interlude (from 2:49), the storm subsides and everything calms down. We come back to the mood of the beginning and hear the familiar horn signal.
In the fourth stanza (3:05 – 4:19), the wanderer is a different person. The vocal melody is the same as in the first stanza, but the accompaniment reminds the audience of what he has experienced.
Here, Schubert composed two things. On the one hand,he shows the wanderer in the “here and now”, on the other hand he shows his dreams and his longing for “back then, at that place”.
He illustrates this musically by repeating the first stanza of the linden tree, while the piano picks up the slightly modified accompaniment of the second stanza, the peregrination.
A remarkable move!
The epilogue is the literal repetition of the prelude, but without horn signals.
Through the repetition, the song is balanced and ends in the same mood it started with.
But only the music ends in the same way. The wanderer,and maybe even the audience, notice the change.
Now you can see that there is actually a lot more drama and progression going on in this “simple” song than one might assume at first.
A really wonderful composition by Schubert.