Nearing the Finish Of His Brief Life, Schubert Turned Grief Into Songs

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Nearing the Finish Of His Brief Life, Schubert Turned Grief Into Songs

Nature tells us that even in times of hardship there is always reason for optimism: night is always followed by day and the depths of winter by spring. Sometimes these can be used as metaphors to help alleviate human suffering or, at least, to provide a ray of hope in troubled times.

One young man in his 30s somehow discovered a source of inspiration despite plummeting into the depths of hopelessness. This young man was Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828). The grief experienced by the musician in 1827, the year before his death and the most difficult period of his short life, produced irDie Winterreisel. (inThe Winter™s Journeyli), a cycle of 24 songs. The composer had suf- fered several blows, including the realization that he had failed to secure public support for his work and the loss of his much-admired mentor, Beethoven. His death was close upon him.

Schubert composed the music to accompany 24 poems written by Wilhelm Muller. The poems begin with a young poet™s rejection in love and his decision to try to find peace in the night. As the songs progress, the language becomes sparser and the tone reaches utter despair. So perhaps when Schubert was inspired to write a score for ioDie Winterreise,l, he could similarly imagine himself as a lonely winter wanderer. The song is known in Korea as isThe Winter Vagabond,le because a novel, musical and a movie based on the songs translated the title as such.

There are as many as 10 different recordings of i.Die Winterreisell sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a baritone. His repeated efforts to do justice to the role demon- strate his attachment to and fascination with the songs. He even chose to perform the songs at his first solo concert in Italy, when he was a prisoner of the Allies in World War II.

Of these many recordings, the one he produced in 1971 with Gerald Moore, a pianist then 72 years old, is considered the best. The elaborate piano accompaniment that marvelously describes the internal conflicts of a lonesome wanderer cast out to the periphery of society is as highly appreciated as the singing, which succeeds wonderfully in capturing the subtle nuances within the words of the song. It is like listening to a conversation between singer and pianist. Most of all, the duo nicely reproduce the musical spirit of Schubert, who valued simplicity in the expres sion of complexity.


by Lee Jang-jik

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