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Franz Schubert and the Sea of Eternity

Sterling Lambert
The Journal of Musicology
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring 2004), pp. 241-266
DOI: 10.1525/jm.2004.21.2.241
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jm.2004.21.2.241
Page Count: 26
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Franz Schubert and the Sea of Eternity
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Abstract

The sea, in its seemingly limitless expanse, symbolized the concept of eternity to a number of important artists of the early 19th century, including Coleridge, Friedrich, and Goethe, who struggled to come to terms with this difficult concept through revision of their initial thoughts and ideas. Goethe's poem Meerestille was set by both Beethoven and Schubert within weeks of one another, and Schubert's two settings, written in the space of only two days, demonstrate the young composer's increasing ability to grasp the existential notion of timelessness as he grappled with Goethe's text. Schubert's musical reading and subsequent re-reading of the poem show how his use of the tritone as a musical symbol of the infinite underwent significant refinement in his second setting.

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