Utopie und Resignation. Schuberts Deutungen des Sehnsuchtsliedes aus Goethes ‘Wilhelm Meister’ von 1826

Oxford German Studies 26:132-164 (1997)
Andreas Dorschel
Goethe University Frankfurt
In the lied, music interprets poetry. Interpretation is not arbitrary. At the same time, there is no such thing as a single correct interpretation of something else – at any rate not of something as complex as a poem by Goethe. Mignon’s song of longing “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, / weiß, was ich leide” can be taken to manifest subjectivity utterly barren within itself. Yet the ability to express that state of mind transcends it; it implies imagination of something else. Thus the freedom achieved in the act of articulation points towards a different sphere of being – “nach jener Seite”. In 1826, Schubert rendered both complementary perspectives musically, the latter in his duet D 877/1, the former in his solo setting D 877/4. Yet that contrast – openness versus closure – conveys only the barest outline. In art, detail is forever crucial to interpretation.
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