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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

4 - Erwartung, Op. 17


Chapter 4 approaches “Erwartung,” Op. 17, as a leitmotivic opera, in contrast to previous literature that emphasizes its “athematic” and “amotivic” qualities. The process within which the opera’s central motive transforms from <D, F, C#> (and its set-class 3-3) to <D, F, A, C#>, and finally into a quotation from Schoenberg’s Op. 6 song “Am Wegrand” portrays a two-step image of emergence – first of the dead body of the Woman’s lover, and then of the realization that he is dead, and she will live the rest of her life without him in “collective loneliness.” This process of motivic emergence is similar to the “cumulative settings” that J. Peter Burkholder proposed for the music of Charles Ives (but the elements that undergo this process in Schoenberg's music are much smaller). In addition, my analysis shows how families of set classes also serve leitmotivic functions: representing the lover’s body, the Woman’s fear, startling objects in the forest, and momentary feelings of reassurance. In this way, Erwartung can be understood as an inspiration for Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck.