Situating Schubert: Early nineteenth-century flute culture and the "Trockne Blumen" variations, D. 802
Clements, Gretchen Rowe
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Franz Schubert wrote his Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen for Piano and Flute, D. 802 in January of 1824, shortly after the completion of Die schöne Müllerin , the song cycle from which the theme is taken. D. 802 has long been the subject of conflicting views: on one hand, it occupies an important position in the sparse Romantic repertoire for flutists; on the other, scholars generally either disparage it, or dismiss it as trivial. I provide both the cultural context for the piece, and a detailed exploration of its place within Schubert's own oeuvre. In order to clear up some of the uncertainties surrounding the work's early reception (or lack thereof), using primary sources, I have reconstructed the milieu of Viennese flutists and their repertoire in the early nineteenth century. The numerous flute virtuosos active in Vienna have largely been forgotten, yet knowledge of them significantly enriches our history of flutists, the flute repertoire, and Viennese musical life. Despite its lack of acceptance among critics and scholars, D. 802 offers insight into a unique aspect of Schubert's compositional process that may not be gained elsewhere in his oeuvre. Specifically, I demonstrate that the musical and psychological progression of the variations runs parallel to the narrative in the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin , conveying Wilhelm Müller's poetic cycle in distinct scenes. Not coincidentally, 1824 is the time Schubert began focusing almost exclusively on instrumental music, and while D. 802 has gone unacknowledged in relationship to Schubert's works on the path to follow Beethoven as a symphonic composer, it shares important features with these works. Along with Schubert's best mature chamber music, D. 802 demonstrates cyclic unity within the composition, and his choice of the theme Trockne Blumen , which presents a view of death as catharsis, is a personal expression relating directly to Schubert's own struggle with illness. While I do not argue that D. 802 deserves a place alongside Schubert's masterworks in terms of pure aesthetics, as a tool for contemplation--one that allows us a unique opportunity for insight into Schubert's compositional process--I believe it ranks among the most important of his works.