The Fourth Piece of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Op. 16, as a Musical Fragment: Discontinuity and Unity Intertwined
At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis established the literary fragment as a significant genre. In spite of its historical importance, the precise nature of a literary fragment is hard to define. This difficulty is in part an outcome of the coexistence of two characteristic features that apparently exclude each other: inconclusiveness and inner cohesion. This paper analyses the fourth piece of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Op. 16, interpreting it as a musical fragment. The piece clearly includes the kinds of factors that have been associated with musical fragments: it features no cadences that clearly establish keys and it includes sudden and apparently unmotivated harmonic and emotional juxtapositions. Yet the paper argues that there is also a large scale harmonic logic underlying the work. In short, it is suggested that Schumann’s piece includes the two apparently contradictory aspects associated with Romantic literary fragments: incompleteness and inner cohesion. The analysis elucidates the interrelationships between these two aspects of the work: 1) incompleteness: the musical surface throughout escapes the sense of being firmly rooted in any key; 2) inner cohesion. The middleground voice-leading structure, described from the Schenkerian perspective, constitutes a coherent (albeit highly idiosyncratic) prolongatory framework.