My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back on the road again: "Gefrorne Tränen (Frozen Tears)"

With "Gefrorne Tränen (Frozen Tears)", the third song in Winterreise, it seems that our horn player has resumed his journey. The piano part keeps a very steady, consistent rhythm throughout although this time, he seems to be walking at a bit of a slower pace. It is obviously cold out since our friend remarks that his tears are freezing as he weeps. He contrasts this image with that of his heart, which is so burning hot that it would melt all of winter's ice.

Schubert chooses to set this poem in a very intimate way, with the dynamics rarely getting very loud, and with the piano offering just a little bit of support and texture under the voice part. One thing I find interesting is Schubert's use of accents and sforzandos in the piano part. They are in virtually every measure and often they are on the same pitches, but in alternating hands. They are also frequently on the off-beats, beats 2 and 4, giving the piano part, and perhaps our main character, a bit of a limp. Or perhaps those accents can represent the falling frozen tears as they pierce the snow on which he walks. I'm a little unsure whether or not those accents will actually break through the texture if I do them. Listening to the Hans Hotter and Gerald Moore recording below, I don't really hear those accents most of the time. Did Gerald Moore omit them on purpose? And what should I do? How seriously should I take this indication? I decided to check out the autograph score and there, those markings are very clear - Schubert must have put them there for a reason. I think I'm going to do my best to preserve them, as awkward as they seem. I think they will provide some nice texture and imagery to the music.

Another point that is somewhat baffling to me is that in spite of the fact that the poem talks of tears, ice, and hearts burning hot, much of the song is in a major key rather than a more sorrow-inducing minor key. I often struggle with music like this because I can so easily feel a disconnect between what the singer is saying and how the music is sounding. I know, I know...I shouldn't say that every piece of music that is about something sad should be in minor and anything happy should be in major, but I apologize - I can't help myself from falling into that trap. Perhaps because our friend is on his journey, walking at a steady pace, the pain that leads to the frozen tears is somewhat diluted. Or perhaps he's been in this emotional spot before in his wandering life and the act of walking helps him to move on to the next destination, to new people, to new experiences.  Now don't get me wrong here, I definitely think the main character gets worked up, especially towards the end, but I also think it's a pretty short-lived emotion.  

Hmmm...that's got me thinking.  Maybe I can learn something from this guy.  Next time I'm stuck in a self-pity mode I'll try going for a walk...might do me some good!  

My apologies that I don't have any personal clips from this song right now...I made them but technology is not cooperating and I have 21 more songs to go.  But here's a recording of mezzo-soprano, Brigette Fassbaender with Aribert Reimann at the piano.  I like this particular recording because the accents are observed and because of the height of emotion that is reached, only to quickly back away and return to a more emotionless state.  

Other posts in this Winterreise series:
When music is more than music: Winterreise's "Die Wetterfahne (The Weathervane)"
Psychology through music: Winterreise's "Erstarrung (Numbness)"
Finding a place of comfort: "Der Lindenbaum (The Linden Tree)"
Images of snow and ice, images of a frozen heart: "Wasserflut (Floodwater)" and "Auf dem Flusse (On the River)"
"Sturm und Drang" encapsulated in song:  Winterreise's "Rückblick (Backward Glance)"
No rest for the weary: "Irrlicht (Will-o'-the-wisp)" and "Rast (Rest)"
Experiencing a lucid dream through music: Winterreise's "Frühlingstraum (Dream of Spring)"
On the edge of a dream: "Einsamkeit (Loneliness)"
Lifted above despair: Winterreise's "Die Post (The Post)"
Choosing a different path: "Der greise Kopf (The Grey Head)" and "Die Krähe (The Crow)"

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