Adorno's essay on Schubert opens by invoking a fraught move across the threshold that separates the death of Beethoven from the death of Schubert. He goes on to read Schubert's music through a series of dichotomies whose opposite terms are distinctly Beethovenian: Schubert's themes are self-possessed apparitions of truth rather than inchoate ideas that require temporal evolution; his repetitive, fragmentary forms are inorganic rather than organic, crystalline rather than plantlike. Above all, Adorno develops the idea that Schubert's music offers the repeatable truth of a landscape rather than the processive trajectory of a teleological history. Schubert's themes, like landscapes, are forms of permanence that cannot be fundamentally altered but can only be revisited.
With special emphasis on Schubert's G-Major String Quartet, this article inflects Adorno's view of Schubert's landscapes by considering how these "truths" also present themselves as illusory and inward (e.g., how some of Schubert's thematic areas can be heard to project a visionary interior space in the way that they suddenly introduce a markedly different realm or the way that they obliquely inhabit their tonal centers). It is then argued that Schubert's music is thus steeped in an existential consciousness for which subjectivity is the only knowable truth. And this truth bears repeating, in the double sense that it can be repeated and it must be repeated.
- Copyright ©© 2005 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.