Returning Cycles: Contexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last Sonatas

By Charles Fisk | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Telling, Retelling, and Untelling Schubert

I

I have traced a compositional and expressive trajectory that draws Schubert's instrumental music into the resolution of an imaginary narrative of his personal as well as his artistic life, a narrative that he could probably not bring to any fulfilled resolution by other means. The actual facts of Schubert's life might well have made the determination and resolution of such an implicit narrative especially urgent for him. His was a life that was far more focused on the somewhat unstable allegiances of friendship than on those of family, a life that never fully established an independent home for itself, a life that left no record of any fulfilled love relationship, and, after 1822, a life that was consigned to recurring illness and untimely death. As a man without consistent family support, without a home he could call his own, without even the memory of fulfillment in love, and as a man afflicted with a life-threatening and socially stigmatized disease, Schubert is likely to have harbored potentially overwhelming impulses to represent himself, in at least some of his fragmentary imaginary narrations of his own life, as a Fremdling. His artistic vocation may well have intensified these impulses even as it created an arena for their resolution.

Even if he did not yet know of his illness in November 1822, these factors encourage the attribution of autobiographical significance to Schubert's choice of “Der Wanderer”—and, in particular, of its Fremdling stanza—as the basis of his first completed large-scale instrumental work after a threeyear hiatus. The “Wanderer” Fantasy engages itself with that imaginary nar

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