“Der Lindenbaum”: Ironic Dualism In Schubert's Winterreise

Seán Geizer


“Der Lindenbaum” is infused with irony in a remarkable number of ways. On a large scale, there are the contrasts of modality, which Schubert uses in an unexpected manner, such as depicting death with major and life with heavy minor. For the small scale, Schubert uses an upper-neighbor motive decorating the dominant scale degree. Schubert first uses the motive in both major and minor inflections, and the serenity of the major mode in “Der Lindenbaum” provides an ironic major version of the 5- 6- 5 grief motive. Everett was the first to notice the 5- 6- 5 motive recurring throughout Winterreise. The goal of Everett's research was to prove that there is a unifying motive linking many of the songs in the cycle, and that the motive he found is used consistently to depict grief. Thus it is not surprising that Everett only briefly mentions “Der Lindenbaum” in his paper, as “Der Lindenbaum” is by no means the strongest display of grief in the gloomy Winterreise. This paper seeks to build on Everett's research by providing a more detailed analysis of the 5- 6- 5 motive in both half- and whole-step versions in “Der Lindenbaum.” The brief 5- 6- 5 motive can be viewed as a concise summary of the broader poetic narrative of the song. When first heard in m. 2, the motive has a quality of being a simple, toss-away motive ending the first introductory phrase. However, in its very next appearance—still in the introduction—the motive now occurs at several structural levels simultaneously (ex. 1). The motive continues to be worked into the fabric of the Lied until it becomes the structural foundation for the B section (mm. 46-58). It appears prominently in the bass and is layered into the upper voices of the piano and the vocal line with varying degrees of subtlety (ex. 2). The agitated nature of the B section highly contrasts the opening of the song, and strongly shows that calm of the introduction may be nothing more than an ironic veneer (compare exs. 2 and 3). Schubert bridges the gap between the opening major and the climatic minor sections by gradually working aspects of the B section into the A sections of this strophic song, including more and more appearances of the 5- 6- 5 motive (see ex. 4, where Schubert inserts a minor-mode version of the motive in the bass during the second strophe). “Der Lindenbaum” is a wonderful example of Schubert's compositional talent for infusing a concise motive with deep emotionality, distilling it down to its very essence. This paper examines only one song out of a cycle of twenty- four, yet “Der Lindenbaum” continues to provide myriad analytical opportunities nearly two centuries after its initial publication.


Schubert; Lied; German

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