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 5, 2010

The beginning of my own "Winterreise"

There are some pieces that I've always dreamed of playing someday.  One of the pieces on that list is Schubert's famous song-cycle, "Winterreise" or "Winter's Journey." The first time I heard any of it sung was at a performance at the Eastman School of Music, when I went to school there.  The singer was the wonderful Hermann Prey and he was accompanied at the piano by one of the piano professors at the school, Barry Snyder - a fantastic soloist and chamber musician.  I don't remember knowing anything about the cycle prior to going and to tell you the truth, I don't know even know why I had decided to attend the concert.  (I'm embarrassed to admit that while I was a student, I rarely attended performances other than the ones that I was required to attend.)  There had been a twitter going around the pianists in the school that Barry Snyder had prepared the cycle in keys different than what Prey wanted and apparently this wasn't discovered until their rehearsal immediately preceding the concert.  As a result, there was a great deal of excitement and intrigue in the air so perhaps that's why I attended.   

That recital was probably close to 15 years ago so I don't remember particular details of the interpretation. I have a distinct memory, however, of being on the edge of my seat the entire performance and I remember clutching the translations in my hands which were literally trembling by the end.  The experience was for me, haunting and awe-inspiring and it was then that I put the cycle in the back of my mind, hoping that someday I would get the opportunity to experience it in a very visceral way.

So now my time is fast approaching.  On Friday, October 15th, I will be performing the entire cycle with a colleague of my husband's,  baritone David Dillard, who currently is a professor at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  He attended the Music School at the University of Michigan at the same time that my husband did and performed the cycle there.  He was then asked by the very talented pianist, Martin Katz, to perform the cycle with him, which they did several times.  So it's no wonder, really, that I am thrilled to no end that I will get a chance to going on my own "Winterreise" here in the next few months and I plan on sharing that journey here on my blog.  I am hoping that by experiencing this epic cycle in a very personal way, I will gain some insight as to why these 24 pieces took such a hold of me at that first performance I attended.  How could music, sung in a different language, with a down-right depressing subject (at least that's how it appears at first listening), grab me in such a powerful, lasting way?  Why was Schubert so incredibly excited to perform it for his friends for the first time, saying that these "terrifying songs...please me more than all the rest, and in time they will please you as well." (Haywood, 1939 - as quoted in the "Winterreise" entry on Wikipedia.)  

If anyone has any particular thoughts or memories about this cycle, I would love to hear them!  Until then, off I go...better put on my winter boots.  And if you happen to be in or around southwest Virginia, do consider joining us for the program.  It is one of those pieces in which a performance of it is more than a performance, it's an experience.

Friday, October 15 at 8pm
Recital Salon, Squires Student Center
Campus of Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA

I hope to see you here...and there...
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)"


  1. I have fallen behind on reading your blog and am starting w/ your Winterreise entries. (They look VERY promising -- but no surprise there.) HOWEVER, I'd like to register one wee complaint: It's Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. As a proud SIU-C alum I'm aghast that someone would confuse us with the U of I... ;-) (Seriously, keep up the great work...)

  2. Oh dear. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I know how people get about their alma mater so it's now fixed, with my apologies and thanks :-) Please do keep reading!