Saturday, January 9, 2016
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
First United Methodist Church
- Schubert: Die Winterreise
DeAndre Simmons, bass
Robert Cassidy, piano
Notes on the Program
by Betty Oberacker
One of the highlights of Santa Barbara Music Club’s concerts is the opportunity for audiences to hear great music from a variety of historical periods, with a diversity of musical forms, performed by excellent artists. This concert features the magnificent song cycle, Die Winterreise by Franz Schubert, interpreted by DeAndre Simmons, bass, and Robert Cassidy, piano.
Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey) is one of Schubert’s most profoundly eloquent expressions, which is saying a great deal given the deeply emotional and intimately revealing nature of his entire creative output. Composed in 1827, Schubert’s musical settings of the twenty-four poems of Die Winterreise by the German lyric poet Wilhelm Müller bear witness to the close affinity felt by the composer with the unrelieved bleakness of the text, a synopsis of which is as follows:
A young man arrives in an idyllic town. There he befriends a family and is invited to live with them. He falls in love with the daughter and his love is returned, or so he is led to believe. However, the daughter rejects him to marry a wealthy suitor who has the approval of her parents. It is now winter, and despite the bitter cold the man leaves his adopted home in the dead of night, after writing a farewell message to his beloved. As he leaves the town, crows shower him with snow from the roofs.
He begins a most painful journey, constantly tortured by memories of his past happiness. On his travels he is joined by a raven (possible symbolic death wish). The song cycle ends with a particularly bleak image: an organ-grinder is plying his trade, ignored by the townspeople and harassed by dogs. It is ironic that in this final poem the poet asks if the organ-grinder will set the poet’s songs to music — an invitation that was ultimately accepted by Schubert.
We know that the composer worked on the cycle while in the throes of his final illness, and he is said to have remarked to his friends: “I will play you a cycle of terrifying songs; they have affected me more than has ever been the case with any other songs.”
And yet, the gloominess pervading the text notwithstanding, Schubert’s music achieves an unworldly aura of incredible beauty and passion, delineating with precise attention to detail the poet’s imaginative intent. Also notable is the fact that Schubert raises the importance of the pianist from a purely accompanimental role to one equal to that of the singer, not merely mirroring him but playing an integral part in the unfolding story of this emotional tour-de-force.