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Span structure in Robert Schumann’s late works Wu, Pei-Hua

Abstract

Robert Schumann's music is frequently noted for its rhythmic complexity at the surface level, within apparently regular duple and quadruple phrase structures. However, not all of Schumann's music is based on regular phrase lengths or regular hypermetric patterns. The interaction between motivic relationships, different types of accents and harmonic structure in his later music creates a conflict between metric and group structures, and necessitates a more careful consideration of these two categories and of this interaction. This paper examines Schumann's use of these ways of subdividing music, and analyzes five of his later works from 1849 and 1853: 1) the Adagio from the Adagio and Allegro for Piano and Horn, Op. 70. 2) Phantasiestucke, Op. 73, No. 1. 3) Four Marches for Piano, Op. 76, No. 1. 4) Marchenerz'ahlungen, Op. 132, No. 3, and 5) Ges'dnge der Fr'uhe, Op. 133, No. 2. This paper consists of two parts. The first chapter discusses and clarifies the definitions of the terms that are related to rhythmic structure, such as group, span, phrase, clause, measure, and chunk. The second chapter contains detailed analyses of the five late works by Schumann. The analyses demonstrate the irregular grouping lengths and span structure, as well as the ambiguous hypermeter and accentual structure in his late works. The focus on the span structure in each piece helps to enhance understanding of the music's overall structure. These analyses illustrate an interaction between various modes of partitioning the musical flow in each piece, as a way of showing a coherent rhythmic result that provides a positive picture of Schumann's achievement in these works.

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