Der Lindenbaum by Schubert
The introduction also hints to a minor key. This minor tonality combined with the horn call seems like a warning to the listener. Even though the main character is happy right now, there is a possibility of melancholy in the future. After the instrumental introduction, the singer begins the first stanza of the poem in measure 9. Here, he is recalling a time where he used to visit a linden tree in the summer and daydream. The music that Schubert provides for this stanza is very simple. The melody does not have many different notes and mainly follows the willable of the text.
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In addition, the piano mostly follows the rhythm of the vocal part. Here we can see that because the piano and voice are unified, it seems that Schubert is telling us that the narrator’s mind is healthy. The text hints that the season is summer, which Schubert reflects in the music by using a major tonality. This also reflects the happiness and good mental health of the narrator. The second stanza begins in measure 17, where it continues the memory of the linden tree in the summer. Here, the narrator emphasizes the presence of a lover in his life.
He states that the tree is always calling to him, no matter what kind of emotion he was feeling. The tree has become an important fixture in his life, and seems to represent love. Here he is experiencing that emotion, so the tree is alive and providing happiness for him. The music reflects these ideas by continuing a major tonality and unity between the piano and vocal parts. This stanza ends with a major cadence, which serves as an ending to the narrator’s flashback. This shows that we are moving on to a different part of the story. In measure 25, there is an instrumental interlude between stanzas.
The interlude entities the fast triplets that we heard in the introduction, which brings back the sensation of rustling. However, this time it is in a minor tonality. In addition, Schubert ends the motif in a low octave in the left hand. The agitated rhythm, minor key and shift to a lower octave tells the listener that we’re moving into a more chaotic and melancholic portion of the story. The singer begins the third stanza in measure 29. The narrator has changed tenses from past to near past, where he is speaking of an experience he had earlier in the day.
He is stating that he had to walk past the tree at night, and he was unable o look at it because it reminds him of the love that he has lost. At this point his lover season represents the change in emotion in the narrator. His happiness is related to summer, and his sadness is related to winter. In addition, the piano accompaniment has changed slightly. Instead of following the rhythm in the vocal part, it has become more independent. It plays slow triplets and eighth notes, which shows that the narrator is more agitated.
This new independence in the accompaniment also shows that the narrator is no longer as mentally healthy as he was before. There are conflicting emotions and ideas occurring in his mind. The fourth stanza begins in measure 37 with a modulation to a major key. Here, the narrator states in the subjunctive mood that the tree seems to be calling him back and inviting him to die. What’s interesting about this portion of the music is the major tonality, because the narrator is talking about the possibility of suicide. He is still walking past the tree in the winter, so is still experiencing the melancholy that was present before.
However, it seems that Schubert is saying that the option of suicide is a respite from the narrator’s heartbreak. We also see that Schubert has kept the rhythmic independence of the piano part, which is still playing slow triplets and eighth notes. This shows that the narrator is still experiencing a descent in his mental health. The piano begins the next section alone in measure 45. Here, it brings the minor fast triplet motion back. The text in the fifth stanza is in the indicative mood and describes a chaotic environment, with fast winds blowing at the narrator.
This is represented in various ways within the music. The fast triplet rhythm in the piano ivies a feeling of the strong wind blowing. In addition, there are swift dynamic changes between piano and Fernando which represent the stormy weather. In the text the narrator’s hat is blown off of his head, as if the tree is trying to pull him back. However, he ignores it and continues walking. The conflicting emotions that are present in the poem are directly shown in the music. The rhythm and the continued conflict between the melody and the piano accompaniment show agitation within the narrator.
In addition, the rapid change between major and minor tonality show that he narrator isn’t sure how he should feel about the linden tree and all that it represents to him. It reminds him of the love that he has lost and represents the death that he could embrace if he so chooses to. In measure 53, the piano plays on by itself and continues the fast triplet pattern, but the dynamics steadily decrease and the tonality slowly changes from minor to major. It seems as though Schubert is saying that the winds, and inner turbulence within the narrator’s mind, are calming. The sixth stanza begins in measure 59 and is again in a major key.
The text is gain in the subjunctive mood and states that the tree is again inviting him to commit suicide, even though the narrator is far away from it. The piano is again playing slow triplets and eighth notes. This shows that the narrator is still descending into madness. In addition, Schubert repeats the entire stanza twice and then repeats the last line once more, stressing the idea of committing suicide. The repeated emphasis on the idea of death as well as the major tonality show that Schubert thinks that the narrator is strongly thinking of suicide as an option to end his misery.