(1) Franz Schubert composed Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) in 1814, when he was only seventeen years old. The song is sung by a soprano, and the only accompaniment to the voice is a piano playing a constant rhythmic pattern (“OnMusic”).
(2) Schubert was one of the most prominent composers in the Romantic era. He was the first composer to live off only the money he got from composing. He wrote many compositions during his short lifetime, especially art songs (“OnMusic”).
(3) In the Romantic era the compositions were very expressive and inventive. The Romantic composers experimented with already existing forms, and dramatic expressiveness. This grew out of the improvement of instruments and the newly invented genres (Britannica). The limits in music composing were pushed with great contrast in the music. There were tempo changes in the music, difference in dynamics that ranged from pppp to ffff, either gradual or sudden, for a great emotional effect. Chromatic harmony was a popular, new way of making dissonance and unstable chords, prolonging the resolution of dissonance, using tones from the chromatic scale to create tension and unpredictability in the music (“OnMusic”). Other traits of the Romantic style of music were individualism and self-expression. Therefore it is possible to hear who the composer of the piece is (An Appreciation 257, 259). Compositions could be either absolute, which meant that the music was not based on a story or a text, or it could be program, which meant that the music was based on a story or a text. During the Romantic era, the composers mostly preferred program music. Nationalism and exoticism in the music was also common. The composers used dances and rhythms that were common in their country and in that way expressed their inheritance. They also borrowed traits from other countries (258). Expressive tone color was important to invoke the mood in the composition and the tone color was mixed and blended for an intense sound (258-259). Subjects the music was based on were intimacy, melancholy, love, unhappy love, or love with obstacles, and also longing. The composers were inspired by nature, legends, and the supranational, poems and stories (An Appreciation 257, 263).
(4) Some of the characteristics from the Romantic era used in Gretchen am Spinnrade, are variety of tempo; the tempo speeds up and slows down throughout the entire song. The piece is programme music and the subject, based on Goethe’s play Faust, describes an unrequested love, a longing for a love that might be lost, a subject used by many other Romantic composers. The dynamics are mostly gradual throughout the song, except when the song returns to the chorus, then it is terraced.
During the Romantic era the piano was improved and it made it easier to play notes quicker, a great help in Gretchen am Spinnrade where sixteenth notes are played constantly throughout the piece. It is possible to hear which composer wrote...