Welcome to the official Singerreise webpage! Join in the discussion as we talk about the life of an opera singer, and as we learn about Schubert's masterpiece Winterreise.

Entertain, Educate, Encourage

Saturday, November 5, 2016

First Impressions - music

Here's a report on some first impressions of Winterreise.

Disclaimer: Prior to starting this project, my experience with Winterreise is actually pretty limited. I've performed sung a few songs from it, taught a couple more, and listened to it once in college to pass a test, promptly forgetting all but the most common knowledge. So I'm coming into this with pretty fresh eyes, and we get to unpack it together.

For these first impressions, I'll talk about it in three parts: the music, the poetry, and the background and history of the piece.

First musically: I took a listen to a recording by Matthias Goerne and Graham Johnson from 1997. It stays minor and brooding for a lot of the piece, but there are stretches where it is distinctively one thing or another. In the first few numbers, it's a little more folksy, No. 5 "Der Lindenbaum" being the chief of them, and there's a lot of strophic songs (where there are multiple verses set to the same tune). I was also surprised by how low it got in spots, and that there was not as much high, floaty singing as I expected, perhaps from my memories of other recording artists. This was good news for me, as a bass-baritone singing in a baritone key!

Around about the middle, there's a stretch of pieces that are a little on the adventurous side, less folksy. He uses through-composition more frequently, sometimes letting the accompaniment getting sparse and disjointed, and other times letting the voice be more on the declamatory side, getting into a story-telling mode, or more like a recitation of an eye-witness account. That would be No. 14 "Der greise Kopf" through No. 18 "Der stürmische Morgen".

No. 19 does a fast reset, and then we sort of launch into a tour of music composition. No. 20 strikes me as being Baroque-like, then Classical in No. 21, and a defiant late romantic No. 22. No. 24 ends it all on a spooky, fatalistic note that I remember really gripping me when I was in college. It's still my favorite of the bunch.

Have you listened to Winterreise before? What do you remember hearing and feeling? Let me know by commenting below.

Next up is text.

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