Rhenish

Robert Schumann wrote four symphonies. The last of them, the third (don′t ask! …well, not yet, anyway) was dubbed – not by Schumann – The Rhenish. With the exception of one movement, it’s a rather jolly work and its nickname seems, for once, almost justified [seeming to conjure the great waterway (of course); jolly peasants; […]

Journey’s end

Our Winter journey together completed, Schubert bids us – and practically everything else – a fond, last farewell: Abschied (Farewell) D.957/7 Farewell! You jolly, you cheerful town, goodbye! My horse paws the ground now with light-hearted hoof, Now receive my final, my parting salute You’ve never seen me downcast before, And it can’t happen now at […]

The hurdy-gurdy man

The end of Wilhelm Müller’s Die Winterreise has a strangeness that never fails to touch and mystify. The image of the ancient, penniless hurdy-gurdy man making his music, unmoved by the passing world, is inexplicably potent – it calls to us. Who is he?  Death? Madness? A salvation of some sort? And then there’s Schubert’s setting: the simple hurdy-gurdy/bagpipe […]

…how strange the change from major to minor

Apart from it being a rather useful (trite but it works?) internal rhyme, Cole Porter wasn’t exactly wrong about the deep emotional effect of the juxtaposition of majors and minors; it’s just that it’s a bit more complicated than that. Have a listen… recognise them? The simple act of flattening one note in a chord, like […]

The posthumous papers of a peripatetic horn player

The trouble with alliteration is that once you start in on it, it’s not so simple to stop. Anyway, it’s not the title of Wilhelm Müller’s pithily named collection of poems (Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten) – the source of the Winterreise texts –that concerns us here but more the wandering horn player himself. […]

Winterreise — The Winter Journey

The last five years of Schubert’s life. Just five years? Doesn’t seem that long, does it? But, in a life span of a mere thirty-one — once you take away ten or so years for childhood — those five years come to represent a quarter of the composer’s mature life and, in terms of composition, the […]