Schumann and the <i>style hongrois</i>

Julie Hedges Brown

in Rethinking Schumann

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393859
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894406 | DOI:
Schumann and the style hongrois

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This chapter explores how Robert Schumann imbued the style hongrois with his own poetic colorings. In three related finales—those concluding the F‐sharp Minor Piano Sonata, Op. 11; A‐Major String Quartet, Op. 41, no. 3; and E‐flat Major Piano Quintet, Op. 44—Schumann combines this Hungarian Gypsy folk reference with a highly unusual format: a refrain‐based “parallel” form featuring sustained tonal ambiguity and multiplicity, with tonic definition treated only as an end‐oriented goal. By resisting conventional forms and by wandering through multiple harmonic landscapes that defy any sense of a true tonal home, these finales evoke Gypsy stereotypes common in Schumann's day: a people seen as distant from sociocultural norms, exploring the unknown through their peripatetic lifestyle. The chapter also argues that Schubert partly inspired Schumann's poeticized use of the style hongrois. Schumann's 1831 reaction to Schubert's Divertissement à l'Hongroise is multivalent, suggesting that the idiom could reference an outward peasant culture while also invoking the infinite and ineffable. Nevertheless a comparison of themes from Schumann's Op. 11 and Schubert's Grand Duo Sonata illustrates the different musical means through which Schumann achieved similar and other expressive effects. Ultimately Schumann saw within the style hongrois a pathway for experimentation, a means for revitalizing inherited genres and older models of form.

Keywords: style hongrois; Hungarian Gypsy; parallel form; subdominant; Piano Sonata; Op. 11; String Quartet; Op. 41, no. 3; Piano Quintet; Op. 44; Franz Schubert

Chapter.  12677 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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