Death in Winterreise

Death in Winterreise

Musico-Poetic Associations in Schubert's Song Cycle
Lauri Suurpää
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/06/2014
ISBN: 978-0-253-01108-4
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Lauri Suurpää brings together two rigorous methodologies, Greimassian semiotics and Schenkerian analysis, to provide a unique perspective on the expressive power of Franz Schubert's song cycle. Focusing on the final songs, Suurpää deftly combines textual and tonal analysis to reveal death as a symbolic presence if not actual character in the musical narrative. Suurpää demonstrates the incongruities between semantic content and musical representation as it surfaces throughout the final songs. This close reading of the winter songs, coupled with creative applications of theory and a thorough history of the poetic and musical genesis of this work, brings new insights to the study of text-music relationships and the song cycle.

Author Bio

Lauri Suurpää is Professor of Music Theory at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.


“Death in 'Winterreise' brings a fresh new perspective on the expressive power of Schubert’s great cycle. Suurpää negotiates skillfully between larger contexts and individual details. Neither imposing nor ignoring its cyclic aspects, he allows the inexorable trajectory of the latter part of these winter songs to tell its own narrative and musical story.”
 — Frank Samarotto, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University

“Suurpää’s book is a highly valuable addition to the literature on Winterreise, while also being one that develops innovative approaches to the analysis of vocal music in general. It would be most interesting to apply the same methodology to the first thirteen songs of the cycle (or indeed to other songs and song cycles) to find out whether the combination of Schenker and Greimas works equally well there. For now, we have to praise Lauri Suurpää for opening up new insights into Schubert, the analysis of vocal music and, last but not least, the engagement with death through music.”
 — Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland

“Suurpää's Death in Winterreise is a collection of nuanced and musically sensitive analyses that are a welcome addition to Lieder analysis. . . . Suurpää's innovative combination of methodologies, his astute interpretation of textual and tonal relations across the second half of the cycle, and his consistently clear communication of musical insights create an analytical journey well worth following.”
 — Music Theory Spectrum

“Lauri Suurpää’s book is a significant contribution to Schenkerian studies.”
 — Music Theory and Analysis

“Suurpää’s book offers scholars, analysts, and performers a path through Winterreise and constructs a valuable theoretical system for analyzing musico-poetic relationships. Its eclectic analytical approach, paradoxically, reveals unity behind Winterreise’s familiar story. . . . Suurpää’s psychologically compelling interpretation and deep musical insights will be warmly received by anyone wishing to discover yet further meanings in Schubert’s challenging cycle.”
 — Notes

“Death in Winterreise presents a unique and captivating study of Schubert’s cycle, exposing us to new musico-poetic relationships between Müller’s poems and the composer’s text-settings.”
 — Music Theory Online

“[This] book will doubtless give professional analysts plenty of fodder to chew over. Those with a less analytical bent should certainly not be put off; the chapters teem with helpful summations and thorough cross-referencing. The chapters on the nature of cycles and the relationship between music and text are highly informative, and worth reading in their own right. . . . this book cannot but help deepen a peformer's understanding of the cycle. ”
 — Early Music Review

“Notwithstanding the substantial contribution to textual analysis provided by Death in Winterreise, the book’s ultimate value lies in its detailed engagement with the music of this song cycle, and the author’s facility for vivid analytical elucidation. Just as Müller draws us towards the innermost thoughts and despairs of his wanderer, so Suurpää conveys his reader inwards towards a deeper, more profound appreciation of these songs and their musicopoetic associations.”
 — Music and Letters

“Lauri Suurpaa's Death in Winterreise is a welcome addition to the literature on Schubert’s second song cycle.”
 — Music Analysis

“Death in Winterreise is a wide-ranging study of Schubert's winter songs, one that navigates gracefully between the intricate rigors of Greimassian semiotics and Schenkerian analysis, the intersection of which offers a systematic approach to the study of text-music relationships in song. Surpaa's explanation of his methodology is remarkably clear in the early chapters and well executed in the analytical chapters. The book offers a new methodology for the study of musico-poetic associations in song . . . . The book will be of immediate value to those interested in the study of text­music relationships in song, the study of Schenkerian analysis, especially close readings of individual songs, the study of Winterreise in particular, and the study of musical meaning in general.”
 — Journal of Schenkerian Studies

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Table of Contents

Note on the Translations of the Poems
Part I: Background
1. Genesis and Narrative of Winterreise
2. Winterreise in Context
3. Text-Music Relationships: Five Propositions
4. Musico-Poetic Associations: Principles of Analysis
Part II: Songs
5. The Emergence of Death as a Positive Option: "Der greise Kopf"
6. Death Contemplated: "Die Krähe"
7. From Hope for the Past to Hope for the Future: "Letzte Hoffnung"
8. Reflecting Lost Hope: "Im Dorfe," "Der stürmische Morgen," and "Täuschung"
9. Choosing Death: "Der Wegweiser"
10. Death Eludes the Wanderer: "Das Wirtshaus"
11. Reflecting on the Inability to Find Death: "Mut," "Die Nebensonnen," and "Der Leiermann"
Part III: Cycle
12. The Song Cycle as a Genre: Some Recent Views
13. Winterreise as a Cycle
14. Epilogue: The Meaning of Death in Winterreise