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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thematic unification in Robert Schumann's Fantasia, op. 17 Rozanski, Rudy Mark


Many have criticized Schumann's compositional style as being incompatible with sonata form. For example, his Fantasia, Op. 17 appears to be a series of cleverly interactive themes which, by virtue of their poetic diversity and dramatic momentum, manage barely to function within the confines of a quasi-sonata form. Schumann's discomfort, some would say, is made evident by the absence of developmental sections in the outer two movements, by the invasion of literary and musical quotation, and even by the rhetorical presentations of his too lyrical themes. Such appraisals focus on that which is absent or unusual, ignoring the inherent craftsmanship and masterful motivic manipulation exhibited throughout the Fantasia. Schumann does not explore and reveal the latent energy in a collection of motives; rather, he varies, transforms, mutates and metamorphizes a few cellular ideas into a collage of richly diversified themes, all of which bear the stamp of these "genetic" cells. Much of the musical momentum in the Fantasia derives its energy from the surface interplay of those themes; thus the engine of the form is more closely akin to variation and cyclic techniques than to those involving thematic development. The essential purpose of this paper is to explore thematic processes in Schumann's Fantasia, these being fundamental to the language of the work. The paper also encompasses a history of the fantasia genre, an overview of Schumann's aesthetics, and a brief discussion of the Fantasia's structure.

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