Title

Winterreise

Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Music

Project Advisor 1

Rufus Muller

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The standard format of a classical Music senior project is two 30-45 minute recitals, one each semester. There are many advantages to this over one large concert. It allows for a larger variety of repertoire to theoretically be prepared to a higher standard. It also means there is more time in between, and lessens the overall stress of the project. While these are all good, solid reasons to side with tradition, I chose to complete my senior project as one concert near the end of the spring semester.

This was not an easy decision to make. The choice was made easier by the repertoire I finally settled on. In the spring semester of my Junior year, I was fortunate enough to be apart of my friend, Emily Cuk's senior project. She had picked several art songs by numerous composers and combined them into a sort of “patch-work opera”. While the rehearsal schedule was grueling, the end product was fantastic. I was inspired. It was like nothing I'd been apart of before. I had participated in Opera Workshop every year I'd been at Bard, but this was different. It was completely student run. We all had a hand in creating the characters we played, and spent a lot of time on each scene. I knew that I wanted to do something like this for my senior project. One of the songs Emily picked for her opera was “Irrlicht”, from Franz Schubert's epic song cycle Winterriese; It was truly haunting. I had heard a few other songs from the cycle, but didn't know much about it. I began listening to it, and immediately realized that it would be my senior project.

There were a few logistical problems involved in performing Winterreise in its entirety. First, it's very long: 24 songs averaging about 70 minutes of music. There is traditionally no intermission. Winterreise is more of a story than most song cycles. It wasn't compiled of poems from one or more poets; it is Willhelm Muller's cycle Die Winterreise (winter's journey) set to music. An intermission ruins the ambiance of the piece, which is much of what makes the cycle so amazing. This means that I would have to sing the entire cycle with little more than a pause after every 8 songs. This was also more music than I had learned or sung in the course of my brief singing career. I didn't realize how extreme that is, but was willing to give it my all in hopes of creating something I could really be proud of.

What I admired about Emily Cuk's project, and what I hoped to accomplish with mine was the creation of an ambiance that seems nearly impossible to attain in the standard recital. When a singer has numerous songs or arias from separate composers, there are bound to be numerous characters. Even if a single unifying theme is chosen, the circumstances of each would require a change of aspect that the singer must adhere to. I wanted a singular character. I wanted to create something new that I could call my own.

Each of the numerous versions of Winterreise that I have heard over the past year bring out certain emotions and attributes of the same character. Depending on the age of the singer, the meaning of the cycle can be very different. The tempo, even the key (the original setting is for a tenor, but Schubert himself was known to shift keys and the tradition continues to this day) changes how the character is portrayed. There is so much room allowed by the music and one's interpretation that it is nearly impossible to sing the cycle the same way twice. The singer most often connected to the cycle, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who has recorded it numerous times, has sing the cycle differently every time. Choosing Winterreise gave me a way to create a character, while having the guidelines set forth in the music and poetry. I was given a fair amount of freedom, but wouldn't get lost honing out the fine details. I also had the great fortune of being aided by my senior project adviser and voice teacher, Rufus Muller, who has sung the cycle numerous times in a professional setting. His knowledge of the cycle guided me through certain standard expectations of the performance, as well as helping me with the interpretation of the German. My accompanist, Erika Switzer, has been equally if not more useful to the overall process. While Rufus was on leave last semester, she helped me learn the insane amount of music. Both have been invaluable to me during the past year.

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