Master of Music (MM)



Document Type



Franz Schubert's "Prometheus," D. 674 (1819), sets a free-verse dramatic monologue by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in which Prometheus, the Titan who presented fire and hope to mankind, declares himself independent from Zeus. This song belongs to a small group of Schubert's Lieder that resemble scenes from operas more than tonally-closed art songs. The paper discusses some of Schubert's compositional influences in the vocal genre, including Johann Friedrich Reichardt, who composed an earlier setting of the same "Prometheus" text. This paper explores the rhetorical structure of Goethe's text, which follows Quintilian's model for an effective argument, and which Schubert punctuates with changes of musical texture and character. The paper considers previous Schenkerian models-Krebs's dual tonality and Burstein's auxiliary cadence compositions-to arrive at a tonal plan of an incomplete Bassbrechung in C major. Though the keys tonicized in "Prometheus" belong to the C-minor pitch collection, the title character's forceful conclusion is, ironically, in the key of C major. Schubert foreshadows Prometheus's eventual downfall musically by including elements of modal mixture, illustrating the precariousness of a moment that ought to be Prometheus's most decisive, his declaration of sovereignty.



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Committee Chair

Jeffrey Perry

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