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Thread: German H note

  1. #16
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    H note in German Music Nomenclature

    I forgot to mention, it is true that Bach often "spelled his name" in musical pitch notation using melodic phrases containig the pitches "B" (modern Bb"), A, C, H(modern B). He was not the only one to do this "musical message" coding in his work. Brahms, Mendelsohn, Hugo Wolfe, Schumann and others would code messages (not necessarily names) in their compositiosns. Schumann often coded "Clara" themes in his works, especially his Art Songs. The themes usually had to do with her father's refusal to permit Schumann's marriage to Clara. In his 12 song cycle "Liederkreise, Opus 39 - Songs on the poems of Joseph Eichendorf", Schumann burried the German word "EHE", which means "marriage" within the cycle by composing the middle three songs in the keys of E major, H (B) major and E major (resolving to E major from its relative minor). The cycle, therefore contained a "special hope" or "anticipation" of the impending wedding.

    Collectively, the 12 songs alternate between major and minor keys, beginning on f# minor and ending in F# major. The songs run the gammut of human emotion related to love lost, gained, hoped for, betrayed, fulfilled, etc. as represented in images and sounds of nature. The texts of the songs tell the history (in symbolic clues) of his longing for and efforts to secure approval of his marriage to Clara. The last song portrays nature singing loud, clear and exuberanly (very fast tempo) - "She is thine, she is thine!. Schumann told Clara in a letter accompanying the cycle, which he sent her as an engagemnt present, "This is the most romantic of all my music". His statement had a double meaning referring to both their musical style (harmonics peculiar to the Romance Period) and his own feelings. In many other of his works the falling melody of C to either B or Bb, then to A, then to some pitch below A and back to A is usually identified as versions of the "Clara theme", a uniquely identifieable melodic "signature" whether in these exact pitches, or transposed.

    See links at http://www.johnctibbetts.com/World%20of%20Robert%20Schumann/assets/intvw_sams.htm and http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n07/letters.html
    .
    and the book Robert Schumann, The Man and His Music, (London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1972), pp. 398-401; as well as the article by Eric Sams. “Did Schumann use ciphers?”, Musical Times, August, 1965, pp. 585-91; (trans. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, June 1966. See also the entry “Cryptography, Musical”, in Stanley Sadie ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 5 (London: Macmillan, 1980), p. 80, and the doctorial dissertation Schumann's Opus 39 "Liederkreis": The story of an engagement by McFadden, Julia Dean, M.M., Florida International University, 2003,
    Last edited by glbaritone; 05-23-2008 at 03:09 PM.

  2. #17
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    Yes, it is indeed true that he hid the "BACH" motif in quite a lot of his pieces.

    Dmitri Shostakovich did the same think using a "DSCH" (where S = Eb) motif in his composition. These are his initials in russian, I think.

  3. #18
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    Did he get to marry her? The suspence is killing me.
    -CJ

  4. #19
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    German H Note

    Yes, ChrisJ, Clara Weik and Robert Schumann married in the same year (December 12, 1840) that Robert wrote the Liederkries, Opus 39, on the Peoms of Eichendorf, mentioned above in a previous posting, which had the secret message "Ehe" coded in the key signatures of songs 5, 6 and 7 of the 12 song cycle. Clara Weik was something of a "child star", giving her first recital at age 9 and having a full blown career as a virtuoso pianist at age 13. Her father was quite the "stage father" and "managed" her career utill her marriage to Robert when she was 19 and Robert was 28. The difference in their ages was one of the first reasons for her father's objection to the marriage. It seems as though his possessiveness was also a factor. Robert and Clara actually had to go to court to secure her permission to marry and wrest her career from her father's hands.

    She continued to give concerts after their marriage, still managing to raise 7 children with Robert (an eighth died at childbirth) and is known as one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic Era, being called "the high priestess of music". She changed the format and repertoire of the piano concert and the tastes of the listening public in a career of concertizing and composing that spanned 61 years. She lived, continuing her career for 30 years after Robert died. Quite an accomplishment for a woman of that time when you consider that the French novelist Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, a contemporary and famous lover of Clara and Robert's friend, Chopin (another great "soap opera" story), had to adopt the pseudonym "George Sand" to get her numerous novels and plays to be taken seriously and readily published. Similarly, in the same time period, Mary Ann (Marian) Evans used the pen name "George Eliot" to insure that her novel "Silas Marner" (great story!) and other works got proper serious attention. Clara, however, achieved her fame and wide acclaim without such "cloaking" of her femininity and without the visible and notorious "loose living" of either George Sand or George Eliot (more great "soap opera"), although Clara and Robert's life stories are not without "intrigue" and the question of just a little "progressive liberality", maybe.

    The story of Clara and Robert's lives together is quite the stuff of great movies and several have been made over the past decades - all of them good. They met when Robert came to take lessons from her father and live in their house as he studied. (One has to wonder how this situation might have given rise to other of her father's objections). Johannes Brahms plays a significant role in their lives - the kind of role that might raise a few eyebrows. There may have been something of a "threesome" going on there, but know one really knows to what extent - perhaps everyone was truly "just friends". Before they met, the then teen-age Brahms sent some of his work to Schumann asking for a critique and advice. Schumann sent the package back unopened, the story goes. However,after meeting a twenty-year-old Brahms, a few years later, Schuman proclaimed to all that Brahms would one day be known as a great composer - so believed by all that Wagner was concerned that Brahms might surpass him in fame and therefore "panned" Brahms in a critique of his conducting abilities. And any rate Clara and Robert "loved" Brahms and remained close friends for life. Brahms cared for Clara's children when she traveled for concerts after Robert's death.

    However, Brahms filled many of his compositions with the kind of "Clara themes" that Robert did. Clara was a composer in her own right (some think better than Robert) so maybe Brahm’s "Clara themes" in his works were just "homage" to a good composer - a common practice in that era for one composer to "quote" another by "borrowing" a brief theme or melodic structure. And then, again, Brahms was a very attractive young man, in fact, "quite a hunk" by today's standards, with a "Beethoven complex", 14 years Clara's junior and 23 years Robert's junior. Friends? or more? Who knows!

    At any rate, poor Robert ended his years in a mental institution - he battled depression all his life. At his death, it is recorded in her own diary that Clara was at his bedside at the end (July 29, 1856), and then promptly went shopping with Brahms the same day after Robert died. She was 37 then and Brahms was only 23. The imagination runs rampant, doesn't it? Nevertheless she is remembered as a lady of character and great bravery, in addition to great talent. There is a story of her defying armed soldiers in an active battle of a revolution in
    Dresden, to rescue her children. (So where was Brahms?) After retiring from composing for 6 years, Brahms wrote his last piece; "Four Serious Songs" in 1896, a sad memorial to Clara's death of that year. He died the next year! Just friends? I don't think so. (Although he did die of cancer, like his father before him)



    Last edited by glbaritone; 05-23-2008 at 04:13 PM.

  5. #20
    I talk to spiders... CaptainCaveman's Avatar
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    Wow, glbaritone, you cleared up a few things for me! I am from Denmark, and over here everyone uses the H for B and B for Bb. I learned music theory in english, however, and as a teenager, I always rebelled against my music teachers for ther seemingly stupid use of an old misprint. I guess i was wrong about that misprint thing, and since then, i have also learned to say "H" when I need to

  6. #21
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    That was a great story.
    -CJ

  7. #22
    Registered User Rented's Avatar
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    Wow, talk about resurecting an old thread Thanks for doing so. Finally we have an explanation. Even Dolmetch Online, which is usually very informative, has no explanation.

    Thanks glbaritone!
    ________
    MissClarice live
    Last edited by Rented; 09-12-2011 at 07:51 PM.

  8. #23
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    H Note in German Music Nomencleture

    To ChrisJ, CaptianCaveman and Rented: Thanks for your kind words of appreciation. It was my pleasure, especially nice to make connections with folks so far away. I owe thanks to excellent teachers at a small traditional liberal arts coleage; Washington and Jefferson, in Washington Pa. and colleagues at Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin Ohio. Good teachers know how to instill love of life-long learning. I can never thank them enough.
    Last edited by glbaritone; 06-02-2008 at 04:57 PM. Reason: spelling

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