First Steps

Having been recently invited to give a performance of the Schubert Winterreise for the first time, the thought came to me after today's preliminary workshop on the piece to document the process, from the journey's first steps, to it's conclusion in September next year (with the performance announcement and bookings opening very soon!).

Works of art can often daunt performers or even audiences. Melbourne is currently in the middle of three complete performances of Wagner's Ring Cycle, and I have to ask at this point: is there any more daunting piece? Attending these performances last week made me feel a great sense of pride for the sort work of work largely devised and executed by Australian artists, such as the current production of the Ring. Perhaps by nature of this "national pride", or even through this largely humanistic production, these evenings in the theatre brought me closer to this work than I have ever felt (which had previously been quite close). There are several reasons to bring up Wagner in this forum, which will be detailed in subsequent entries.

Our art song ensemble, Songmakers Australia, celebrated it's five-year anniversary this year (somewhat nerve-wracking in itself), and my passion for and dedication to this repertoire is no secret. In lots of ways, the Winterreise is the everest of the genre - 75 minutes of intimate vocal artistry of the highest order - so it would be somewhat of an under-statement to say that I'm daunted. That said, having studied and performed a lot of Schubert and Germanic repertoire in general, I've also been chipping away at the piece for several years now and the timing feels right.

After more than 10 years of working together, Andrea and I virtually share a brain, so there's no-one else I would rather be embarking upon this project with. She pretty much knows what I am going to do in a performance before I've even had time to think of it, and in a sense, the preparation for this recital is already done - we embarked on the Schubert Schwanengesang together more than three years ago in a slow and careful way, and that has laid an excellent foundation. (That was quite a process - something I shall blog about in due course.)

With the style, language and intense knowledge of the work behind us (Andrea has performed it before, and I have been studying it for a while), our first rehearsal today largely focussed on the tonal schema of the work. As a bass-baritone, it's not possible for me to perform the work in Schubert's original keys, but we always work towards preserving the tonal relationship between one song in a cycle and the next. Sometimes this is not possible (for either vocal or pianistic reasons), and a compromise has to be made. Each performer will approach this aspect in different ways, but I will publish our intended keys next time alongside a comparison of Schubert's originals next time.