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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No. 17 Im Dorfe (052 pt. 2)

For today, for Episode 52, we have a return to Winterreise. We're now up to number 17 of Schubert's masterpiece, titled "Im Dorfe," or "In the village."

Previously in Winterreise, Schubert had been highly experimental with his music, culminating in No. 16. With No. 17, Im Dorfe, Schubert returns to a more familiar song form. In this case, it's a literal A B A "song form," which means that the first and last sections are similar.

The A section starts off with a lulling, rolling pattern in the left hand, alternating with periods of silence. The right hand has simple triads, and the time signature is a lazy 12/8.

It only takes a few lines of text before it's clear what Schubert is trying to portray. The A section depicts nighttime in the town. There's the howling of hounds, rattling their chains. More particularly, the townspeople are sleeping in their beds. The rolling figure in the left hand is similar to a townsperson snoring away in their sleep.

Throughout Winterreise, though, we've been establishing that our Wanderer is an outsider, looking in. He's making observations of the sleepy town and its residents, but he is not one of them.
They are idly dreaming, both of the good and the bad. But when morning comes, all their dreams vanish.

For the B section, the Wanderer is watching all the people of the town wake from their dreams and go about their day. Here, the accompaniment changes a little bit. The snoring in the bass goes away, and is replaced, at first, with a single repeated note. This is the sound of groggy townspeople stirring awake.

The music then gives way to a light-hearted, folksy sound. Personally, I think it's artificially folksy, a little too idyllic. Eventually, though, the townspeople return to their dreams and nod back to sleep.

Right here at the end of the B section, there's a word in the German I should point out, "Kissen." Schubert takes this word and gives it a very delicate, poignant moment. The temptation here is to hear our English word "kisses," and to make it a sensual, experiential moment.

This, however, is what we call a "false cognate" in translation. In fact, "Kissen" in German has nothing to do with kisses, but pillows. Schubert's poignant moment here is simply the people drifting back off into sleep. He eloquently adds to the image with a drifting, solo cadenza in the piano part, resolving back into the snoring of the A section.

Back in the A section again, we hear the hounds howling again, but it's now a welcoming sound to the Wanderer. He bids that the hounds continue, so that they keep him from sleeping.

Fun German words: schlafen means sleep, and Schläfern are sleepers. Schlummerstunde is slumber-hour. Träumen, which comes up a couple of times, are dreams.

Remember, though, that the Wanderer sees himself as an outsider. He believes that he is finished with dreams. (Remember also that the last song was about the death of his hope.) Seeing no reason to remain among the "sleepers," he moves on.

While rehearsing this piece, I had a bit of a challenge with the timing of the vocal entrances. For some of them, I even had to resort to counting, something that's a bit of a rarity for me.

There's also a challenge near the end of the piece where you have to be very careful about breath. There's a single long note that is a measure and a half long - if you don't plan for it in advance, you'll run out every time.

So that's it for number 17, Im Dorfe. I hope you've enjoyed this little exploration with me!

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Next up will be another video on Winterreise, and soon, we'll be celebrating one year of Singerreise. Thanks for following along this last year!

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