It's a cool, crisp Saturday afternoon in Melbourne and I've just returned home after a morning at the Songmakers Studio. After a nice cup of tea, I'm sitting down to write this Winterreise blog and reflect on the morning's work with Andrea, and also do a bit of revision with my score.
I've had lots of enquiries about how rehearsals are going and, in more general terms, how one approaches such a large cycle. All-in-all, it's feeling really good, and actually in this circumstance, two thirds of the work is already done - Andrea and I already know each other very well, and we're also are very familiar with Schubert's musical language.
So our process of rehearsing for this cycle is actually a little bit different. We've mostly been ploughing through the cycle, devouring each song, and I anticipate we will get to the end at our next session on Thursday (we are are now about two-thirds of the way through). In actual fact, our discussions have mostly focussed on the gross narrative, which ties in well with this way of working.
When we started, we each had quite a different conception of who the protagonist is, but discover more and more clues each rehearsal that affirms our perspective on his background and circumstances. Initially I viewed this young man as pertaining to a lower social stratum, but there are plenty of indications that he's working within a household of some standing and has committed a sort of social faux-pas, which prompts his departure.
We also work very hard to maintain a continuity between the individual numbers of the cycle, but for this to ring true, one really needs to get inside this young man's head! I also think it's really important to recycle one's energy between movements, and find a way to transform one thought or feeling into the next. There are seldom moments when the action stops, even between movements, but there are a few points of repose (today, for instance, we found one after Irrlicht) where both the protagonist and the audience can catch their breath.
One of Andrea's main musical philosophies (one she has very much passed on to me) is that as performers, we must always work to realise the true intentions of the composer. If something doesn't feel right, it's normally because we've missed something that Schubert had in mind. Mostly these are overt indications, but sometimes there are codified elements too. Given we're so focussed on the score and on the text, in a way it feels as though there are fewer musical decisions to make over-all - it's really all there!
Andrea and I were actually commenting after rehearsal today that in all of this, we feel rather a lot like movie directors preparing for a film, which is probably a good way to summarise the whole process. She she even joked that we should develop a story board, which is a little unconventional for our art form, but I reckon it's an awesome idea. Let's see if we get around to it...