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An Exploration of Goethes Faust as Interpreted by Busoni and Gounod, and How the Composers Varied Use of the Musical

Elements Show the Development of Music Over Time

Subject: Music Candidate Name: Cynthia Ruan Candidate Number: 000322-077 Word Count: 3118

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Abstract An exploration of Goethes Faust as interpreted by Busoni and Gounod, and how the composers varied use of the musical elements show the development of music over time. The purpose of this essay is to explore different interpretations of the same workGoethes classic work of literature, Faustas done by many composers throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Though there are many interpretations, Charles Gounods grand opera, Faust, and Ferruccio Busonis opera Doktor Faust specifically are examined. Despite the fact that the two works are relatively far apart in the time period written, the two pieces contain similarities regarding the interpretation of the plot of Goethes Faust, as well as differences in various musical elements. The seven musical elements examined in this essay are the vocal range, tempo and dynamics, harmony and instrumentation, and form and rhythm. Via and investigation of these elements through analyzing the scores as well as external research done on criticism of the two works, the similarities and differences between what is known as the pact scene, in which Faust signs a contract with the devil, Mephistopheles, of each opera is studied and explored. By closely examining the Faust-Mephistopheles duet of Faust, and the second prologue of Doktor Faust, it is clear that Gounods Faust deems the storyline and action of the characters as a crucial role in the legend of Faust while Busonis Doktor Faust puts the illustration of the characters emotion as the most important aspect of the opera. In conclusion, musical interpretations of the same work vary as music develops over time.
Word Count: 261

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Table of Contents Introduction I. Vocal Range II. Tempo & Dynamics III. Harmony & Instrumentation IV. Form & Rhythm Conclusion Bibliography 4 5 7 9 11 14 15

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Introduction When one mentions the term Faust, the first thing that comes to mind is Satan; the second thing, a scholar. The third is the story: a well-known scholar who desires unparalleled knowledge and sells his soul to the devil. Of the various versions of the Faust legend, Goethes is one of the most prominent. As Goethes Faust was considered a classic, many had difficulty picturing the words set to music and even more could not possibly imagine pursuing this goal. Because of this, there were no musicians who wished to be the first, until Hector Berlioz. His dramatic legend, La Damnation de Faust, was the first musical piece to set music to the words of Goethes Faust. After he ventured into the, at the time, forbidden territory, many others followed. Aside from Goethes Faust being a magnificent work of German Literature, many nineteenthcentury composers wrote pieces and produced operas based his work, such as Franz Liszts Faust Symphony, Arrigo Boitos Mefistofeles, Robert Schumanns Scenes from Goethes Faust and the second part of Gustav Mahlers Symphony No. 8.1 Among the notable ones, this investigation will examine the interpretations of Goethes Faust by Charles Gounod, a French Romantic composer who lived at the end of Goethes time, and Ferruccio Busoni, a fellow German composer. Gounods Faust was written in the initial stages of the Romantic Era (~1820-1900), a time when music was becoming more emotional and free-formed with song-like melodies and dramatic contrasts of pitch and dynamics.2 These characteristics of the Romantic era can be noticed throughout Gounods Faust. On the other hand, Busonis Doktor Faust was written in the period of 1916-1925, during post-romanticism and the beginnings of surrealism and expressionism. At that time, musicians attempted to move away from the idea of making instruments sing and instead employed wide leaps and dissonant intervals. 3 The scene in which Faust calls upon Mephistopheles, known as the pact scene, of each opera will be analyzed. Through examining the musical elements of Gounods grand opera, Faust, and Busonis opera Doktor Faust, the development of music over time will be explored and analyzed. 3 Forney, Kristine and Joseph Machlis. The Enjoyment of MUSIC: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening. 9th edition. New York, W. W. Norton & Company. 2003. p. 502.
1 2

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Vocal Range

In Act I of Gounods Faust, Faust calls on the devil for guidance as he curses faith and the sciences. This scene is executed through a duet between the two main characters Faust and Mephistopheles without the employment of a chorus and in recitative accompagnato style. Though this scene is a duet, Faust and Mephistopheles do not sing in unison until after they have signed the contract making them master and servant, symbolizing the connection made between the two. In this opera, Gounod decidedly makes the character of Faust a tenor and Mephistopheles a bass, allowing an assumption to be made of the relationship between the two. As the two voices interact, one can see the control exerted by the bass voice over the tenor voice, such as in measures 67 to 71.



Image 14: measures 67-71 displaying Mephistopheles control

In this exchange, Mephistopheles replies using words that he is all powerful. The vocals exhibit this as well, as there is a change in tempo from tempo I to moderato as Mephistopheles lines begin. This could be interpreted as a sign of control. Following Tout tout the tempo quickens slightly as the bass voice strings out triplets, conveying a more lively and animated atmosphere. The bass voice has more control over the flow and direction of the singing.

Change in tempo

Image 25: measures 30-33 showing command of bass voice over music

Faust. Gounod. Ed. 2679. G. Schirmer. p.18

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One thing to be noted is the treatment of tempo by the vocals. The alternating between various tempos represent the emotion felt by the characters and creates a certain atmosphere in the scene. This is exemplified in measure 30 onwards. At Mephistopheles appearance, the tempo is changed from the slower tempo of andante, when Faust curses faith and the sciences, to moderato once again. On the other hand, the pact scene in Busonis Doctor Faust is drastically different from Gounods Faust in that it is expanded past Goethes original text. In addition to Mephistopheles, five more were added with a total of six spiritsLucifer, Levis, Asmodus, Beelzebub, and Megaros. Thus, the pact scene is much longer in length and the actions made to summon the spirits are different, resulting in possibly different uses of musical elements. Not only does the plot differ between Busonis Doktor Faust and Gounods Faust but the vocals are notably different as well. In one thing, the voice ranges of Faust and Mephistopheles are switched; Faust has a lower voice range, as a baritone while Mephistopheles is a tenor, characterizing him as the essence of tension and stress. Referring to an earlier analysis, in Busonis interpretation of Goethes Faust, Mephistopheles seems more submitting as a tenor voice while Faust has the upper hand and a commanding tone as the lower voice. This contrasts the traditional musical representation of the devil. A factor that supports the idea of Faust having more control is the libretto. Wie der Sand in dem Uhrglas? Hinweg, kriechendes Wesen. Verlsche. (As the sand in the hourglass? Begone! Begone! I want no sluggards, be extinguished!) (mm. 181-187)6 The words in these lines already show the command Faust has over these spirits. When he demands that the spirits be gone, they disappear on his command, and he says to himself Sie gehorchen (They obey me), revealing that he himself is surprised at their obedience. However, one point to be noted is that each spirit (in the order of appearance) has a higher and higher vocal range, with Gravis, the first spirit, being bass, and Mephistopheles, the sixth spirit, being tenor. A parallel can be made between their voice and the speed at which they can move. For example, Gravis moves as the sand in the hourglass, which is extremely slow. Therefore, his voice is a low, extended drone to depict this movement (Image 9). Therefore Mephistopheles being tenor and the last spirit would make him the swiftest.

Image 97: Gravis voice depicting his movement in measures 172-175

There is also a chorus employed in this pact scene, which did not exist in Gounods Faust. The chorus makes its appearance after the fourth spirit, Beelzebub appearsa tenor voice. It is most likely that the chorus is utilized to emphasize which spirits Faust could rely on, as they only appear after the swifter spirits are introduced. However, the chorus does have

5 Faust. Gounod. Ed. 2679. G. Schirmer. p.15

6 7

Busoni. Doktor Faust. Deutsche Grammophon. Booklet. Busoni. Doktor Faust. Breitkopf & Hrtel. p43

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another purpose in that they add suspense during Mephistopheles and Fausts exchange by chanting. II. Tempo and Dynamics

As mentioned earlier in part I, there are several transitions back and forth between different tempos in Gounods Faust. Although this could be viewed as tempo rubato (as that was a prominent characteristic of the Romantic era), it is not as each separate tempo is marked in the score. Nonetheless, different tempos are utilized in a way to show a certain emotion felt by the character or the atmosphere of the setting. It is clear that the orchestra is written to accompany the voices by looking at this musical element.

Repetition of fortissimo employed.

Image 38: measures 1-6 exhibiting the use of the tempo and dynamics

A fast tempo, allegro agitato, is used to depict the agitation and frustration of Faust, as he is distressed over his inability to gain transcendent knowledge. The tempo matches the speed of his thoughts and how fast they transition from one to anotherfirst cursing joy and lust, then science and faith (Image 3). Another musical element to be taken note of in this passage is the dynamics. Fortissimo is employed from the start to finish of the passage in image 3 to emphasize the magnitude of the emotion that is felt; it is clear from the passage that his frustration is taken to another level that he contemplates whether or not to call upon a God. The music lends itself to the audience and evokes the same feelings, allowing them to connect and understand the characters.

Transition from ff to fp

Image 49: contrast in dynamics shown in measures 7-10

8 Faust. Gounod. Ed. 2679. G. Schirmer. p.14

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A strong characteristic of the Romantic era that Gounod maintained in his opera was a dramatic contrast in dynamics. As romantic pieces became more and more emotional and expressive, the range of the dynamics expanded.10 In the Faust-Mephistopheles duet, there are many examples that exemplify this aspect. The fortepiano in measure 9 (image 4) mirrors Fausts words as he curses with malice. As the libretto is no longer an exclamation but more of a statement, the fortepiano is used to transition from the previous fortissimo to a piano. In Busonis Doktor Faust, the tempo increases as each spirit sings and the dynamics also become louder with each consecutive spirit, correlating to the speed at which the spirits claim they can move. This creates a dramatic effect, as Faust is closer and closer to finding the spirit who can grant his desires. For example, sustained notes are employed while Gravis sings but at the entrance of Beelzebuth, the music is poco pi animato with eighth notes and sixteenth notes used; this shows the increase in tempo (image 10).

Use of sustained notes

Image 10 (above)11 and 11 (below)12: contrasting tempos at appearance of Gravis and Beelzebub

Use of sixteenth notes

However, the fastest tempo is at the appearance of Mephistopheles still. An allegro introduces the sixth spirit as he calls for Faust. The passage is initially soft but gradually
9 Faust. Gounod. Ed. 2679. G. Schirmer. p.14

Fuller, Richard. Romantic Music. <>

11 Busoni. Doktor Faust. Breitkopf & Hrtel. p43 12 Busoni. Doktor Faust. Breitkopf & Hrtel. p49

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becomes forte by means of a crescendo, building up to the first climax of the second prologue. While the tempo and dynamics serve to depict the action, it also depicts the emotions of the characters, like Gounods Faust. When Mephistopheles states Hernach dienest du mir, fortab (Oh then, yes then, youre my servant thereafter), Faust is bewildered and exclaims that he will not. At this point, the music follows the emotions, as there are sforzandos in the bass and the orchestra plays forte (image 12), depicting Fausts disbelief.

Image 12: Fausts bewilderment mirrored by the dynamics


Harmony & Instrumentation

In the Faust-Mephistopheles duet of Gounods Faust, there are four key transitions; a short passage in D minor transitions to C minor before progressing onto a G major then to E major and A-flat major. Although there is a stepwise ascent in melody is harmonized by consecutive tonicizations13, chromaticism is used throughout both minor keys. Consequently, dissonance can be heard. This symbolizes the inner conflict of Faust, and the conflict of trust between him and Mephistopheles. Because of this, there is relatively no chromaticism in the major key passages as those are the later half of the scene in which Mephistopheles and Faust have already made their contract.

Chromaticism displayed by violins

Image 514: measures 65-67 with measured 66 displaying chromaticism

Ending Mephistopheles introduction, a fast chromatic-like sequence is used to transition to Fausts hesitant questioning (image 5). Prior to this allegro sequence, there is already the use of many chromatic notes sung by Faust, and thus creates dissonance in the music. It

Huebner, Steven. The Operas of Charles Gounod. P. 254

14 Faust. Gounod. Ed. 2679. G. Schirmer. p.18

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leads up to the allegro sequence and introduces a back-and-forth question-answer phase between the two characters. One thing to be noted is that Gounod employs stringsviolins and harpsfor all of the chromatic sequences in the scene. This is logical as violins and harps have a wider range of notes than most other instruments, allowing the chromatic sequences to be played more easily and smoothly. Many of the elaborate ornamentations are also commanded by the violins.

Bassline played by Violas

Chromaticism employed Image 6: measures 143-148 displaying instrumentation and chromaticism

Instruments in Gounods Faust are also utilized to provoke feelings in the audience. As Mephistopheles gives Faust his request that he is Fausts master down in Hell, the repeating triplets, played by the viola, creates a suspenseful mood leading up to a climax. The repeating triplets also utilize chromaticism in order to depict an eerie setting to match the libretto sung. Similar to Gounods Faust, Busoni makes use of chromaticism and dissonance, retaining some qualities of the romantic era. It is employed to show the conflicted emotion of Faust and his dissatisfaction in failing to find a spirit that could grant him his desires. Such as when Beelzebub presents him with the question of whether or not he would suffice. The chromaticism in the strings strengthens the displeasure of Faust (image 13). One thing to note is that the music of Doktor Faust tends to depict the emotions of the characters rather than the actions as Busoni himself stated that all music ever aim at the one end, namely, the imitation of nature and the interpretation of human feelings.15

Image 13: example of chromaticism in Doktor Faust.


Busoni. Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music. New York. G. Schirmer. p3


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Again like Gounods Faust, there is a continuous up and down chromatic sequence played by trumpets, horns and other bass instruments depicting Mephistopheles urgency in persuading Faust to sign the contract. This provides a build-up to the instant in which Faust gives in and signs the paperthe second climax of the second prologue. The continued use of chromaticism is due to the fact that the entire second prologue is written in the key of A minor. This allows the broader use of chromaticism. The instrumentation plays a crucial role in introducing each of the other six spirits and shows the differences between them. As Levis is as swift as a falling leaf, which is quite slow, the sustained C played by the horn characterizes his sluggishness, similar to how Gravis is also characterized by a sustained note.

Image 14: First appearance of Levis accompanied by sustained C


Form and Rhythm

Gounods Faust is a grand opra, which is a prominent style that developed during the Romantic era. The Faust-Mephistopheles duet, Mais ce Dieu, has a ternary design with a significantly lengthy middle section, which is used to introduce new textures and to develop the plot. A cabalette16 forms the B and B stanzas, the first of which is sung in G major by Faust as he happily dreams of the things he desires, such as youthfulness and passion. The second cabalette is sung in a major key a semitone higherA-flat majorby both Faust and Mephistopheles to signify that Faust is even closer to achieving his goals than before. The second cabalette is the only passage in the scene in which Faust and Mephistopheles sing in unison rather than a back and forth exchange.

Image 7: Excerpt of first cabalette in G Major, measures 96-99

Cabalette: a short aria that has a repetitive rhythm and a simple style (


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Image 8: Excerpt of second cabalette in A-flat major, measures 207-212

A marked tendency for grand opera is to expand the central slow section as well as the cabalette17. In between the two cabalettes, the slow section is seemingly divided into two partsboth labeled andante. The first part is an andante that slowly modulates into tempo I then moderato as it depicts Mephistopheles proposal. The second part starts at the tempo andante once again as Mephistopheles attempts to persuade Faust into signing the contract by conjuring an image of Marguerite. The violins and harps hum softly while the violas play a continuo. The soft humming of the strings is lulling and depicts a gentle imagery to convey a feeling of peace, eventually convincing Faust to agree. The vocal aspect of the scene starts off syncopated, utilizing eighth notes, but develops into a smoother melody. However, the rhythm is quite obscured at times due to the frequent changes in time signature between 6/8 time and common time. As the orchestral music conforms to the libretto, it is also relatively obscure as there are frequent changes in meter. Gounod also employs brief pauses in orchestral score allowing emphasis on the voices (image 3).

Image 3: measures 1-6 exhibiting the use of the tempo allegro agitato

The form of Busonis Doktor Faust is much broader than the ternary form of Gounods Faust. Busonis belief in absolute music allowed him to seek artistic freedom in Faust by allowing himself not to be confined to defined forms and structure.18 However, this does not suggest

Huebner, Steven. The Operas of Charles Gounod. p269. Chamness, Nancy O. The Libretto as Literature: Doktor Faust by Ferruccio Busoni. New York, Peter Lang Publishing. p165
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he does not use certain forms to present Doktor Faust; he uses common operatic forms such as choruses and arias to show the development of the story. The second prologue of is seemingly through-composed with different textures and ideas continually being introduced. However, there is repetition of a two types of feelings conveyed in this section to create a dramatic progression into the story. These stark contrasts in musical styles creates the back and forth transitions between Fausts fear and excitement of deciding to sign the contract and the stifling security of what is safe and familiar to him. This exchange can be seen at the end of the second prologue where the musical style changes quickly and consecutively, separated by pauses of silence. Busoni also tends to spend more effort on the intricacy of the meter. The meter of the second prologue changes periodically from 6/8 to 9/8 to common time, matching the intonations and rhythm of speech. It is not confined to a certain structure; this also demonstrates the freedom Busoni desired in his music, which was an element kept from the romantic era.


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Conclusion Goethes Faust is interpreted magnificently through the works of Charles Gounod and Ferruccio Busoni as the core elements of it can be seen in both Faust and Doktor Faust, yet there are clear differences between the two works in regards to the vocals and the form. The fact that Goethes work is a timeless classic allows the different interpretations to be made. Gounods Faust deems the storyline and action of the characters as a crucial role in the legend of Faust. On the other hand Busonis Doktor Faust puts the illustration of the characters emotion as the most important aspect of the opera. The differences in priority of aspects and the comparison of the feeling it gives the listener and audience, there can be a better understanding the development of music over time.


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Publications: Busoni, Ferruccio. A Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music. Trans. Dr. TH Baker. New York: G. Schirmer. 1911. Print. Chamness, Nancy O. The Libretto as Literature: Doktor Faust by Busoni. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2001. Print Forney, Kristine and Joseph Machlis. The Enjoyment of MUSIC: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening. 9th edition. New York, W. W. Norton & Company. 2003. Print. Huebner, Steven. The Operas of Charles Gounod. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print Publications (Scores): Busoni, Ferruccio. Doktor Faust. Wiesbaden. Breitkopf & Hartel. Edition Nr. 5289. Print. Gounod, Charles. Faust. Libretto by Michel Carre and Jules Barbier. English Version by Ruth and Thomas Martin. New York. G. Schirmer. Print. Web Publications: The Free Dictionary. Cabalette. <<>> Fuller, Richard. 15 Feb 2010. Romantic Music. <<>> Wikipedia. Faust. <<>> Music Recordings: Busoni, Ferruccio. Doktor Faust. Perf. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, William Cochran, Baycrischer Rundfunk Chorus & Orchestra. Cond. Ferdinand Leither. Deutsche Grammophon, p1970. CD. Gounod, Charles. Act I/Duet/Mais Ce Dieu. Faust. Perf. Richard Crooks, Leonard Warren. Chorus and Orchestra of Metropolitan Opera. Cond. Wilfred Pelletier. MVD, p1997. CD.