Aspects of Time in Robert Schumann's Sechs Fugen Uber Den Namen Bach, Op. 60
Parker, Patrick 1988-
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This essay examines three aspects of time sometimes misunderstood by organists interpreting Robert Schumann's Sechs Fugen iiber den Namen Bach ("Six Fugues on the Name Bach"), Op. 60: tempo, rubato, and large-scale tempo modification. The document focuses on each aspect separately by quoting appropriate primary written sources and applying that information directly to musical excerpts from the Six Fugues. Comments and comparisons are also made to the recordings of internationally acknowledged organists, pointing out the problems modem organists face in understanding this music. The first portion of the essay focuses on tempo. It discusses German tempo markings and their traditional Italian equivalents, tempo relations among movements of Schumann's fugue cycle, how notation informs tempo choices, and the subjective nature of the topic according to the primary written sources. It then applies information on tempo to specific passages in the fugues and comments on the analyzed recordings. The second section is devoted to tempo rubato in relation to dynamics, crescendos and diminuendos, and structural points in the music. Utilizing comments on rubato made by the Schumann circle, this section identifies and analyzes specific musical passages in which Schumann notated rubato in his Album for the Young, Op. 68. This portion of the essay applies information about rubato to specific passages in the Six Fugues and again comments on the analyzed recordings. The final section of the essay is devoted to an examination of large-scale tempo modifications that Schumann specifically asked for in the first and sixth fugues. These can also be applied to the fourth fugue because of its compositional similarity to the other two movements. The document asserts that Schumann's request for acceleration was a prototype for similar practices in the music of Liszt and Wagner. It cites a variety of Wagnerian sources describing large-scale tempo modification, which provides a new, unique understanding of tempo modifications in Schumann's Six Fugues. The new theoretical framework and interpretation are compared to the analyzed recordings. This essay concludes with a summary of information drawn from the primary sources and applies this information to the fugues. The sources and their application demonstrate how Romantic performance practice has shifted over the last forty years, as is evident in the analyzed recordings. This document provides a new framework for critical analysis and interpretation of tempo, rubato, and large-scale tempo modification as a means of identifying and understanding the evolving status of Romantic performance practice.