Historical and Theoretical Analysis on Schubert’s "Leichenfantasie" (D7) and "Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe" (D955)

Essay, 2016

14 Pages, Grade: 3.0



Despite Schubert’s short life, the compositional style between his early years and later years have ample difference. This essay will compare the difference of compositional style between Leichenfantasie, D7, an early work of Schubert and Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D955 (hereinbelow referred as D955)[1], a later work of Schubert, in terms of historical influences and theoretical analysis.

Historical Significance of Leichenfantasie

Seminary encounter on Zumsteeg

Leichenfantasie, D7, was a lied composed by Schubert in 1811, during his seminary years. Schubert successfully passed the entrance examinations for filling up two choristers’ vacancies at the Imperial and Royal Court Chapel (Rowlinson, 1997, p.4). Since successful candidates of the examinations can receive free education in I&R Stadtkonvikt (Imperial and Royal Seminary), the best educational institution of Vienna, Schubert entered I&R Stadkonivkt in 1808, and there he was taught piano and organ by Wenzel Ruzicka (Newbould, 1997, p.21; Rowlinson, 1997, p.4,6) . He also learnt violin and singing there and played the first violin in the seminary orchestra (Rowlinson, 1997, p.6). During the seminary years, he started to study the works of Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg, some of which is based on words by Schiller, just like Schubert’s Leichenfantasie (Reed, 1997, p.5).

Early Lieden: Fatality as theme

Many of Schubert’s early lieden, like Leichenfantasie, is based on the topic of death. Eisenlohr (2005) suggests that the fact that 9 of Schubert’s siblings died between one day to five years may have facilitated Schubert’s contemplation on issues of death. Schubert’s first home, ‘The Red Crayfish’, on the Himmelpfortgrund, was only 35 square metre large (Reed, 1997, p.2; Eisenlohr, 2005). One can easily imagine how close Schubert’s childhood was with death living in such a small house with a sibling dead inside.

Historical Significance of Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D955

Attempt to gain financial support

D955, composed in August 1828, at a time Schubert was encountering financial difficulty despite his concert success on March, is one of his last lieder (Hall, 2002, p.220; Woodford, 1984, p.143). His endurance on poor financial situation seemed to have lessened as his friends started to gain financial stability one after another (Woodford, 1984, p.143). Patron and friend Joseph von Spaun, married to Franziska Roner Edle von Ehrenwert, a daughter of a supreme-ranked military captain Joseph Roner Edler von Ehrenwert (Gebbels, 2015; Woodford, 1984, p.143). Another patron and friend Leopold von Sonnleithner married to Louise Augusta Gosmar, who was born in a prosperous Jewish family (Johnson, 1990; Woodford, 1984, p.143). Moritz von Schwind, a painter friend Spaun introduced to Schubert, officially engaged with Anna Hönig, who is a barrister’s daughter (Newbould, 1997, p.256; Woodford, 1984, p.143). Eduard von Bauernfeld, whom became friends with Schubert from 1825, started to experience success in his literary works and had gained many official duties (Woodford, 1984, p.143). These sudden rise of status of his fellows may have made Schubert to put himself in comparison with his friends and facilitated his eagerness to gain financial stability as soon as possible when he faced poor finances again in summer 1828 (Woodford, 1984, p.143).

The best way to get financial support Schubert might have thought of was to become a Kapellmeister, a position which many financially-secure composers before Schubert has taken (Woodford, 1984, p.145). Schubert therefore turned to compose more and more liturgical works starting from 1828, in hope of securing a generous patronage from the church (Woodford, 1984, p.145). The complexity of these liturgical works are well below many of his previous works, and an example of such works is D955, possibly because chorale-type simplicity is preferred for its meditative character (Eisenlohr, 2004; Woodford, 1984, p.145).

Syphilis and acute infectious diseases: simplified compositional style

Schubert’s simplified compositional style in summer 1828 may have also reflected his quickly deteriorating health as Schubert may have found it arduous to give the level of effort similar to what he has given to his previous works. Professor Peter Gilroy Bevan asserts that in 1828 Schubert may have already been in the advanced stage of syphilis, which may have triggered an immune deficiency syndrome similar to that of AIDS can trigger (as cited in Newbould, 1997, p.276). Dr Robert Kruth suggests one or more type of acute infectious disease may have caused Schubert’s death following such immuno-suppression (as cited in Newbould, 1997, p.276). Contracted in 1822, to Schubert syphilis may have already been a routine, but these acute diseases could have been a blow for Schubert in summer 1828, which contributed to his suddenly simplified composition style over his very late works, and later a direct cause to his death.

Cyclothymia: yearn for God’s help

Schubert may have been suffering from the worst condition of cyclothymia (manic depression) by the time he was composing D955, as Hall (2002, p.220) finds out that the first stanzas of the poem used in Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D954 (which was written at about the same time as D955, as afore-mentioned) seems to be describing his psychological status at that time: ‘Faith, hope, love!/If you remain true to these things/You will never be divided within yourself/And your skies will never be darkened.’ Financial support, therefore, may not be the only reason explaining why Schubert chose to write two vocal compositions on ‘Faith, Hope and Love’, but also his yearning to recover from cyclothymia and syphilis.

Harmonic usage in Leichenfantasie

Juxtaposition of major and minor triads can be seen in the piece, which creates an effect of frequent shift of keys between major and minor. The 1st theme of the piece is in D minor and G minor. However, whenever there is a fermata to emphasize certain chords, it always comes to a dominant chord which is major in chordal quality. It gives the effect that makes the listener tends to think that the piece is moving to a major key. However, Schubert always writes a minor chord after these major chords, making them seem like false hopes, which adheres to the theme of the lied: despire. (See Figure 1)

Kramer (1996, p.211) proposes that such juxtaposition has been a characteristic in Classical tonality, and not a new invention, as not all chords built on a major scale is necessarily in major quality, as well as that in a minor scale which not all chords built on it is necessarily in minor quality. Schubert therefore was not creating something new on its own, but he tended to use such juxtaposition technique in a more drastic way.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Harmonic Analysis on 1st Theme of Leichenfantasie, D7


[1] It is reminded that Schubert composed two works that is named Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe at about the same time (Reed, 1997, p.168). The composition this essay discusses is Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D955, a lied for voice and piano based on a poem by Christoff Kuffner, but not Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D954, which is a quartet for male, chorus and the orchestra based on a poem by J.A.F. Reil written ‘for the dedication service for the recast bell at Holy Trinity church’ at Alsergrund on 2 September 1828, although both poems are based on Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, and thus Schubert may therefore have given the two compositions the same name (Newbould, 1997, p.271; Reed, 1997, p.168). Another significant difference between the two works is that D955 is not commissioned while D954 is commissioned.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Historical and Theoretical Analysis on Schubert’s "Leichenfantasie" (D7) and "Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe" (D955)
Education University of Hong Kong  (Department of Cultural and Creative Arts - Education University of Hong Kong)
MUS2254 Phenomenon of Music in Classical and Romantic Era
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ISBN (eBook)
Leichenfantasie, Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, Schubert
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Bachelor of Education (Music) Kwan Lung Chan (Author), 2016, Historical and Theoretical Analysis on Schubert’s "Leichenfantasie" (D7) and "Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe" (D955), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/448148


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