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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winterreise No. 8 - Rückblick (017)

Merry Christmas to us all!

As 2016 closes, I've been thinking back on what has been accomplished so far with Singerreise. In the official count of the video podcast, attached below is Episode number 17 already, after only a couple months. Several people watching all of the videos. Some are reading these blog posts (of which there are 28!). A few have even signed on as patrons. I'm extremely grateful for all of you!

We do need some more patrons, though, so for 2017 to be a smashing success, check out patreon.com/singerreise to find out how you can get involved. And, of course, to find out about all the free stuff you've been missing out on!

This is the last major article for 2016. Sarah and I are going to take a little time off during the holidays to spend with each other and to focus on learning music for just a bit. There should be some more available by the end of the first week of January, probably by Friday, January 6th, so make sure to come back and visit again. Better yet, follow this blog with you email address or with your Google account, and you'll be sure not to miss it!

In this article we take a look at the fiery Rückblick, number 8 in the Winterreise cycle. We're officially 1/3 the way through! It makes for a nice ending for the year - everyone likes a big, heroic finish.

Rückblick also provides the ending for the first half of the concert that Ryan Bede are doing this winter. If you are new to this website, you may have missed that Winterreise is going to be performed in concert on January 29th, 2017, at Bellevue Presbyterian Church. Ryan and I are each performing 12 songs each, trading off every few songs or so. If you live in the area, come check it out!

Okay, that was the last announcement. Rückblick, the title, means to glance back, and in it our Wanderer thinks back to his first time coming to the town. To me, it feels like the poetry is a little backwards itself, like it travels in time from the present progressively back to the beginning.

Rückblick has a running start. (pun intended) And by run, I mean the Wanderer's feet are hitting the ground hard and fast. They're a little on the hot side, even though he's running on the ice and snow. He's trying to get to the point that he can no longer see the spires of the towns' houses. On his way out, his feet seems to find every stubborn rock, and even the crows are menacing him with snowballs and chunks of ice, thrown at his hat.

To our Wanderer, it seems like the town has done a 180 on him. Even while accusing it of its inconsistency, he starts to remember how it was when he first arrived. Birds were singing. Trees were blooming. The stream gurgled clearly. And then he saw the two maiden's eyes, which, of course, were ultimately the ruin of him. Whenever that day enters his mind, he wishes he could go back.

To me, a few words pop out of the text. One pair that seems to come up again and again is "Ich möchte," meaning "I would like." Throughout the song, the Wanderer is stating how he would like for things to be, but not as they actually are or that they can be. For example, near the end the Wanderer says "Möcht' ich zurücke wieder wanken," which means, "I would like to go back again." It's different from saying "ich will," or "I want." It puts a little ambiguity into the piece.

Also, I got to say, I really like the image of the crows throwing snowballs and chunks of ice. And I love that there's a German word for "chunks of ice" (they also use it to mean "hail").

There's also a really neat picture that develops of the town, possibly clearer in this song than in any of the songs thus far. It's postulated that the town's description pretty closely matches the town that Wilhelm Müller, the poet, grew up in, Dessau. There, too, there was a little river, linden trees, and most specifically, little towers on the houses. Winterreise, as the set of poems, is not intended to completely autobiographical on the part of Müller, as his story turned out very different from the Wanderer, but it is neat to see the descriptions in there.

More than anything, the musical treatment describes the running, the Wanderer's feet as they hit the ground hard. It's a beast to play on the piano (and I have a wonderful wife), but Schubert sticks only to a few tricks this time around. Another that he plays with is the switching back and forth from major to minor. When the reality of the current situation is dominant, we're in a harsh minor key, When we are thinking pleasanter thoughts about the town, it reverts to major.

The running only stops twice. The first time is at a fermata at the first key change – the text goes from descriptive to slightly thoughtful there, but even during the thinking, the running is still in the background, just more legato. The second pause is at the very end. The words are "stille stehn" or "stand quietly," and we get an entire measure without the pounding. It's as if the Wanderer for a moment did manage to go back in time, and there he was, staring at the Maiden's house.

So, that's it for Rückblick! If you want to find out more about Winterreise or the life of a singer, check out some of the other articles here at Singerreise.com, our facebook page facebook.com/singerreise, or the YouTube channel and its many episodes. And if you are loving the entertainment, or if you've learned something new in this article, consider becoming a patron at patreon.com/singerreise. Among other benefits, you'll have access to ad-free videos, bonus videos and music. In fact, we recorded a special musical number earlier, special for our patrons and unavailable through any other method. So check it out!

Leave some comments, and we'll see you in the new year!

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