Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


Alan Walker




As a work of literature that has inspired numerous musical settings, Friedrich de la Motte Fougue's fairy tale Undine is an ideal entry into an examination of the interaction of literature with music in the works of nineteenth-century composers. This thesis examines three major works inspired by the tale, operas by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Albert Lortzing, and a flute sonata by Carl Reinecke. The varied responses of the three composers to the literary material are set against the context of their social and historical positions and in relation to the genres of opera and programme music.

Two introductory chapters present a history of the musical settings of Undine and define parameters for studying the influence of literature on music. Chapter Three analyzes the fairy tale itself and identifies its sources.

Each of the three central chapters examines one of the musical works, studying the ways in which each composer reinterpreted Fouque's fairy tale according to the demands of his time and place. Chapters Four and Five compare Hoffmann's and Lbrtzing's operatic treatments of the story as two diametrically opposed responses to the literary source. Chapters Six, an analysis of Reinecke's Sonata "Undine", deals with the problem of narration in instrumental music.

McMaster University Library

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