‘’The first song of Schumann’s Dichterliebe begins in the middle and ends as it began- an emblem of unsatisfied desire, of longing eternally renewed. The introduction returns not only before the second stanza but at the end as well. It starts as if continuing a process already in motion and ends unresolved on a dissonance’’. These are the words of Charles Rosen on the expression of the fragment. It is one of the most fascinating romantic (which has its foundation in literature) ideas.
Take Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Schumann which is a famous example of the ‘open form’ which was one of the ideals of the romantic period. But also a pieces such as the Fantasie Op.17 , and later on perhaps the Sonata in b minor by Liszt feel as if they start right in the middle. Also Beethoven perhaps – with his very motific writing – already gives us a glimpse of the idea, especially in his later works. Think of the Sonata Op.101 which feels as if preceded by already at least a few pages of music.
The Romantic Fragment has a literary history. It came into being with the early Romantic movement (at the very end of the 18th century) in Germany. Charles Rosen says Friedrich Schlegel can be called the creator of the idea of the Fragment of which the later wrote: ‘’A fragment should be like a little work of art, complete in itself and separated from the rest of the universe’’.