Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 September 2011
The presence and significance of the nineteenth-century Lied extend well beyond solo vocal settings with piano accompaniment of German poetry. Composers often wrote songs for other instrumental partners (such as guitar), in multi-voice combinations (duets, for example), and in languages other than German (as did Grieg in Norwegian and Dvořák in Czech). A broad definition of the Lied therefore must take into account the diversity of instrumentations, vocalists, and languages that fits somewhat uneasily within a category exemplified by works of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler, and others. Ultimately, the domain of the Lied stretches even farther, into the non-vocal, into purely instrumental compositions, which is our concern in this chapter.
A song, in short, is not always sung. Prominent examples that frame the period under discussion here begin with Schubert's “Wanderer” Fantasy, “Trout” Piano Quintet, and “Death and the Maiden” String Quartet, and extend through Mahler's so-called Wunderhorn symphonies and beyond. Such well-known instances of songs subsumed into keyboard, chamber, and orchestral compositions represent only a small part of a practice with broad musical, aesthetic, and cultural manifestations and implications. The phenomenon encompasses far more than the works of Schubert and Mahler, and in various ways affects most significant nineteenth-century composers, in Germany and elsewhere.