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Betsy Podsiadlo

Wolf Assignment

Due 12/3/17 at midnight

1. Make five statements about Wolf's compositional style, including his approach to text
setting. These may include your impressions of his style in relation to the songs we've
been looking at in class, or reflections on his unique approach to musical

The accompaniments role in most Wolf songs is generally less dense and
overwhelmingly unrelated to drama and scene unlike Schubert. This is exemplified
within the Mrike Lieder in songs like Gebet.

Wolfs choices are all very deliberate and entangled in the speakers psyche. The depth
of this work is often in the moments between vocal phrases, like in Fureise, the second
song in the Mrike Lieder. These light sensual piano lines really outline the tension and
desire that drips from the text.

Wolf is unafraid to take on the dualities and contradictions of the mind. It could easily be
argued that he attempts to musicalize the cognitive distortions that most people struggle
with. An example of this musicalization is the cycles thirteenth song. Im Frhling, or
In Springtime has a text brimming with physical details that are positive and indicative
of joys of spring whereas the chromaticism that litters the accompaniment suggests a
darker twist.

Wolf is concerned mostly with the character or speaker of each text and setting their
view on the world in an immersive song that swallows the listeners forcing them to
understand and consider a view outside of their own. The complete immersion is one of
Wolfs trademark characteristics.

Wolf was not interested in creating melodies that were hummable (in the words of
Sondheim). He chose to illuminate the emotions indicated in the core of the text through
emotionally driven vocal lines.

2. How does Wolf show the influence of Wagner? Name three ways.

Wolfs use of chromatic intervals is reminiscent of Wagner. Wolf uses it in similar ways
to Wagner in that it displays tension, adds to the overall emotion and character of the
piece and allows for him to project a strong overall emotional figure throughout the

Similar to Schubert as well as Wagner, Wolf was very interested in the dualities of the
human spirit and perspective. Just as Wagner depicted both the sadness and the
sensuous longing of the speaker in Im Treibhaus, Wolf thrives on the depth of emotion
within each text he sets.

In reading further about Wolfs life, I discovered some documentation about his creative
process. (Music Immanent in Words - Hugo Wolfs Mrike Lieder, Julia Nafisi, Australian
Voice 2010) It is said that when Wolf composed, it was like a creative burst of energy. It
happened very quickly and suddenly. I feel that this can explain a lot about the
harmonic innovations of Wolf and how he let the text inspire him to the point of letting it
lead the creative impulse of melody conception.

3. When we refer to music as 'psychological' or as related to the 'psyche' of a speaker,

what does this mean? Choose two songs from your list and discuss how Wolf's music
portrays a character's state of mind. [five sentences for each song]

In song seven, Das verlassene Mgdlein, Wolf captures the eerie feeling of early
morning as the speaker processes her emotions from the night before through the
chromaticism and open structure of the chords in the accompaniment. You can feel the
loathing yet longing in the singers voice as they float the higher notes of the melody in
comparison to the simple accompaniment. The juxtaposition of the light vocal line and
the block chords in the piano truly capture the didactic nature of the text. The opening
piano line of the high voiced thirds casts the spell of the sense of purpose she has
whilst doing her early morning chores. As the poem devolves to her emotional issues
with the infidelity of her lover, the major second in the left hand holds a similar effect.

In song eight, Wolf blends the context of a gossiping neighbor and the tumultuous love
story of a young couple through use of inventive texture and juxtaposition of harmonic
rhythm. The fast paced accompaniment provides a backdrop to the legato vocal line.
This device encapsulates the sense of urgency and drama that the speaker is feeling.
The text itself begins with a storm, and the chaotic accompaniment feeds the idea that
the storm is real and not an innuendo. In the next stanza, Mrike uses a simile that
references roses, alluding to the true meaning of the aforementioned storm. Wolf feeds
into the innuendo with sensuous chromatic runs in the accompaniment, as if the gossip
was growing and swirling around the speaker.
4. Comment on Wolf's treatment of text. How is his approach to prosody innovative?
[five sentences]

Wolf explored the act of breaking down a dense poem and addressing all of its ideas
within his compositions. He was inspired to use his own musical language to get to the
core of the symbolistic Mrike texts. This was inspired by Wagner. Wolfs interest in text
also extended to the organization of the songs within the cycle. Due to what some
professors call his obsessive compulsive tendencies, Wolf ordered the songs based on
themes like spiritual wrestling, doomed love, abandonment, etc. but kept the cycle
cohesive through a transformative action within each song.

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