Categories
Recording

Handel: Joshua

Kenneth Tarver Joshua, Tobias Berndt Caleb, Renata Pokupić Othniel, Anna Dennis Achsah, Joachim Duske Angel, NDR Chor, FestspielOrchester Göttingen, Laurence Cummings
115′ (2 CDs)
Accent ACC 26403

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m not sure if the Handel operas performed at the Göttingen International Handel Festival (by the FestspielOrchester Göttingen under Lawrence Cummings) are recorded live as a matter of course each year, but I seem to have heard several such offerings and they are, without exception, a true joy from start to finish. I can’t recall if the other discs follow the same format, but I felt that the inclusion of snippets of applause in this recording of Joshua only added to the feeling of actually being at the opera. With the exception of Anna Dennis, I was unfamiliar with the soloists, and was pleasantly surprised by the uniform quality but varied timbre of their voices. This said, I did find Renata Pokupić‘s rather heavy vibrato (I know, so “early music” but bear with me) a little static on her first recitative and aria. As the opera progressed, however, this became less of a problem.

First performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on March 9th, 1748, Joshua was one of several oratorios composed by Handel to celebrate the victory of the Hanoverian dynasty over the Jacobites. As such, it focuses on the militaristic might of the mighty leader, Joshua, but while it undoubtedly was a commentary on the political situation of its time, the libretto (possibly by Thomas Morell) sticks to the biblical account but adds in a love story. The slightly whimsical style of Dr Wolfgang Sandberger’s booklet notes belie excellent scholarship and add to the sense of a well-informed production.

The oratorio contains many lovely and well-known moments, including the rousing ‘See, the conqu’ring hero comes!’. As always, Cummings’s pacing of the music is so incredibly well-judged that both narrative and music flow unimpeded. A real joy both in terms of content and interpretation.

Violet Greene

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Categories
Recording

Michael Haydn: The Complete String Quintets

Salzburger Haydn-Quintett
146:02 (2CDs)
cpo 777 907-2

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]f the five works that make up this fine collection, only one is categorically named “Quintetto” by the composer (Perger 110); of the others, two are divertimenti (106 with six movements, and 112 with seven!), while 109 is a “Notturno” and 108 has this designation and Quintetto. All are in major keys and abundant in Michael Haydn tunefulness and mirth. One of the most interesting movements is one of the Allegretto variations from 105, marked “Recitativo. Adagio. Senza Rigor di Tempo”. Contrasting the pairs of violins and violas is a common technique throughout, and the Salzburger Haydn-Quintett on period instruments seem to enjoy this entertaining if not exactly intellectually challenging repertoire. Since Haydn was a viola player in the prince-elector’s chamber ensemble, we must possibly imagine him enjoy his turn in the limelight.

Brian Clark

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Categories
Book

Mauro Calcagno: Perspectives on Luca Marenzio’s Secular Music

Brepols, 2014.
527pp, €80.00.
ISBN 9 78 2 503 55332 0

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he contents do not completely cover Marenzio’s secular music: the writers tend to pick on specific examples or types. There is a considerable quantity of the music itself discussed in extensive detail.

Music and Poetry.

Franco Piperno Petrarch, Petrarchism, and the Italian Madrigal (pp. 15-30) discusses the revival of Petrarchan verse for madrigals between 1542 & 1570.

James Haar The Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588 (pp. 31-50) is the only such set by Marenzio, perhaps writing in a style that was aiming at different noble masters; English composers later used the same pattern.

Seth J. Coluzzi Tirsi mio, caro Tirsi: Il pastor fido and the Roman Madrigal (pp. 51-73) makes an attempt to distinguish quasi-soloistic sections, but I’m not convinced. The latest idea isn’t always better than previous ones until the next idea appears. The compromise is noted by Alfred Einstein (p. 70, note 23): “The whole book is full of hidden drama, but the presentation of the actual scene or monologue is always madrigalesque, even if there is a real temptation to dramatize”.

James Chater ends the group with Family matters: Music in the Life and Poetry of Giovambattista Strozzi the Elder (pp. 75-140). Both Strozzi were blind; the Elder was mostly a poet, with over a thousand poems – the Junior is less significant in the discussion of the music, especially the long list of music that is known of but not visible or audible.

Musical Styles and Techniques.

Ruth I. DeFord C and Ȼ in the Madrigals of Marenzio (pp. 143-164) has confusing examples, especially the up and down arrows which interfere with the clashing stresses in the music. The use of C (4 crotchets) and Ȼ (4 minims) are not necessarily firm rules – see, for example, ex. 6/a, b & d (p. 161-2) in C but with 4 minims. 6 is more irregular, presented by the editor with 4 crotchets | 8 crotchets | 1 crotchet |8 crotchets. I’m not convinced that singing to the beat is as significant as the theorists assume anyway: singers need to be aware of the tactus but also of the stress of the poem.

John W. Hill turns to Two Reflections of Sixteenth-Century Italian Solo Singing in Luca Marenzio’s Villanelle (1584-97) (p. 165-202). This is a useful read for those who wish to sing/play the published music or adapt playing with the vocal lines (not necessarily all of them) or strumming a guitar or lute. Performers who enjoy more flexible music should read this chapter.

Music and Patronage: A Debate

Claudio Annibaldi Social Markers in the Music Market… (p. 205-234) is followed by comments by Mario Bagioli, Arnaldo Morelli, Stefano Lorenzetti & Jonathan Glixon, concluded by Annibaldi’s A Reply in an Apologetic Vein (p. 251-261). I found myself more interested by the other writers. and wondered if the four names given above may have taken advantage of later research, and consequently Annibaldi by definition would have also followed even later. However, none of the footnotes by all the authors in this section were later than 2006 (I may have missed a 2007 item that I didn’t see on the check.) This section strikes me as the least successful, but it would have been better without Annibaldi! One misprint: Gardano and Scotto in the 1670s (p. 255, last para.) I’m a little surprised by mention of Condoleezza Rice (p. 259) – I don’t remember a pronounciation with a double zz or tz?

Contexts of Production, Circulation, and Consumption

Giuseppe Gerbino Marenzio and the Shepherds of the Tiber Valley (pp. 265-281) is well worth reading for the short creation of a myth by the Tiber, parodying Tirsi and Clori and the pastor Ergasto. The text was published in 1597 as Prose Tibertine del Pastor Ergasto by Antonio Piccioli Cenedese.

Paoli Cecchi “Delicious air and sweet inventions”: The Circulation and Consumption of Marenzio’s Secular Music in England (c.1588-1640) is a massive exposition (pp. 283-369). While reading it, I regretted that Tessa Murray was too late to incorporate her Thomas Morley, Elizabethan Publisher – see review in EMR 162 p. 4. She creeps into p. 303 note 66 on the strength of a 2012 joint quote from Philip Brett and Tessa. This is a massive survey, not just of available music, but how much was known of its use. The printing of violas accompanying vocal solos is a mistake for viols (p. 318), but on p. 322 there is a treble viale and the viola da gamba (not within quotes) lower down the first para­graph. There is a vast amount of information, not just on existing or hypothetical editions but on how they was used.

I had expected to read the book during a cruise on a boat running from Budapest to Regensburg – but without much likeli­hood of following the plan because of the failure to get under bridges and made worse for me by the failure of my glasses. Reading became very difficult and the final day involved four hours by bus and five hours waiting for the flight, so I couldn’t get through the final section and this is the first chance I’ve been able to catch up at least some back work on our music sales activity. The final group of Print Cultures and Editions covers Jane A. Bernstein, Christine Jeanneret, Laurent Pugin and Etienne Darbellay. The end is a useful short summary of various aspects, preceded by “changing criteria and editorial techniques from one volume to the next, as is the case of the CMM series, which should should be strenuously avoided.” It is, however, impossible for such long-running of some of the series to change in mid course, but new editions should certainly use the more current form – unnecessary cutting note values and elaborate and confusing beaming, for instance. I’ve avoided CMM12 (Giovanni Gabrieli), using editions that are more accessible, though a certain amount of under­standing is needed – I’ve been involved in Cambridge with several 1615 motets for at least three distinguished organisations for the 500th year of his publication (though he died in 1612 and his amanuensis was hardly reliable!)

The final two pages (461-2) draw attention to the differences between manners and notation. Not all will agree, and performers who are not involved in the specialists’s expertise may well be distracted from perfor­mances. There are too many attempts at complete editions: it’s better to publish other composers for whom there is less access. But no complaints about this volume. It concludes with a 50-page list of Marenzio’s works and 13 pages of indexes. The cover is elegant, but 1.780 kg is rather an effort to hold. It has 527 pp, the height of an A4 sheet, and only fractionally less wide.

Clifford Bartlett

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Categories
Recording

Telemann: Music for Wind Band

“The Saxon Alternative”
Syrinx
62:04
Resonus RES10154
TWV44:2, 7, & 14; TWV55:c3, B3

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his fabulous recording is devoted to one of the less well-known repositories of baroque music. As well as maintaining “Kapelle” (ensembles made up of singers and instrumentalists who were as capable of performing sacred as secular music), many German courts – in imitation of Louis XIV – maintained an “hautboistenband”, a separate group of musicians who served a different purpose. Their precise function remains cloudy (there are records, for example, of court musicians being paid to teach the “hautboisten” to play the violin), but Belinda Paul’s informative booklet notes are right to suggest that the classical “Harmonie” did not simply appear out of thin air – the involvement of instruments other than double reeds (and the ability of “hautboisten” to play them) was a long tradition. The CD’s title derives from the fact that Saxon bands regularly featured a pair of horns; thus the recording features two overtures for five-part winds, two for the saxon variant (pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons) and a concerto for pairs of oboe d’amore, horns and bassoons (all with harpsichord continuo).

It will surprise no-one that Telemann manages to delight the ear with what might seem like limited resources. The blend of double reeds and horns (especially oboes d’amore and horns!) is gorgeous, especially when recorded in such a generous but not over-resonant acoustic. The individual movements of the suites take on a character of their own, with the composer’s mischievous sense of humour never far from the surface (just listen to La Grimace and I defy you not to smile…) It’s all such fun that I can even forgive Dan Tidhar for using the lute stop on track 16. I hope we will hear more of this repertoire from Syrinx (or even some of the cantatas mentioned in the booklet – I have edited several…)

Brian Clark

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Categories
Sheet music

Richard Dering: Motets and Anthems

transcribed and edited by Jonathan P. Wainwright.
(Music Britannica, 98).
Stainer & Bell, 2015.
xxxviii + 135pp, £88.00.

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]ering first appears in modern editions in Consort Songs (MB 22, 1667) with City Cries and Country Cries. His Secular Vocal Music (MB 25, 1969), edited by Peter Platt, contains 20 Canzonette a3 and 24 a4, two volumes published by Phalèse in 1620. The Italian MS pieces from UK MS sources are mostly in three parts. It ends with a trio and a sextet in English. My impression is that these are under-sung. Wainwright’s first volume of Dering (MB 87, 2008) contains chiefly music that survived long after Dering’s death: Playford’s Cantica Sacra 1662 and The Second Sett 1674. The 1662 set has 14 sacred songs for two voices and and ten for three (all with continuo); the 1674 set has 8 duets for treble or tenor, bass & Bc. There are a dozen more from MS sources and 12 incomplete works. Ardens est cor meum appears differently as the first and the last item in the volume. There is just one volume from Early English Church Music (15, 1974), Cantica Sacra a6, 1618. Platt was editor, but overdid the transposition with keys of G, D and A – the notational practice of sharp signatures didn’t exist in Dering’s period.

The main contents of MB 98 are Cantiones Sacrae quinque vocum cum basso continuo ad organum. That contains 18 Latin pieces, many with familiar texts, and is followed by two English translations, Lord thou art worthy (19) and Therefore with Angels (20), both based on the O nomen Jesu, the second part of no. 1. The volume ends with three anthems: Almighty God which through thy only-begotten Son (21), And the King was moved (22) and Unto thee O Lord (23, perhaps by Wilkinson).

Jonathan Wainwright’s editorial remarks and practice are sensible. I’ve known him since he called on me to discuss what his doctorate should be, and I’ve been impressed by him for something like 30 years. The addition of slashed slurs to indicate where a note has two or more letters is hardly necessary since the words are clearly spaced. I’m not entirely convinced that repeated accidentals in a bar can be omitted: I prefer the system of repeating accidentals unless consecutive – it’s clearer. It also seems unnecessary to leave the original mensuration sign – 4/2 looks odd!

The pitches present a problem – and it is easier to solve performance if the compass of each part is shown. The current assumption of standard pitch is about three quarters of a tone higher, though it can be sung either a semitone or a tone above. High-pitch clefs (nos 5 & 10-15) in theory should be a fifth or thereabouts lower. But care needs to be taken when a continuo organ is necessary: omitting it is regrettable, partly for the backing, but also for the occasional isolated organ chords.

The music itself is impressive, though features are perhaps a little similar. I think on the whole that I’d prefer to hear anthologies of Dering rather than complete Dering record­ings. MB scores are rather large to read and expensive to buy: the A4 compromise would need minimal change of the adjustment apart from narrower edges – or does Stainer and Bell reprint individual pieces thus?

Clifford Bartlett

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Categories
Sheet music

Handel: Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks HWV 348-351

set for the Harpsichord or Organ by Francesco Geminiani (1743) & Anonymous (ca. 1749)…”
Arranged and edited by Siegbert Rampe.
Bärenreiter (BA 9254), 2015, £29.00.
xiv + 50pp + 3 parts.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]was puzzled when I saw adverts of this, but it turns out to be interesting. For a start, there is considerable information on the two works in the introduction. The Water Music for keyboard was issued in 1725, 1733/34 and 1743, the last version being arranged by Geminiani. (The comment in the introduction in the second column of the second paragraph of page x is confusing, since three dates are described as “the latter”! The German text is correct.) As the introduction says, Geminiani was not primarily a keyboard composer, but it works quite well. Some cadences look bare, but perhaps that is left to the player to fill in. The Fireworks keyboard version is not very sophisticated, so the editor has produced a solo keyboard version as well as another for treble and continuo; three parts are provided – flute/violin/oboe & Bc, and realised continuo with right-hand fill-in in the middle stave. Odd bits of facsimile fill in gaps, but could be more precisely related to the main score. Fun to play, but with so many CDs, playing on keyboard is rather old fashioned – but perhaps the custom will change.

Clifford Bartlett

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Sheet music

Edition Walhall – April 2015

Catena Sammlung (Mus. ms. Landsberg 122-Berlin).
Inta­vo­latura mit Werken von Frescobaldi, Tarditi u. a. für Orgel (oder Cembalo).
(Frutti Musicali 19) Band I (EW 919), 2013.
[vi] + 50pp. €21.80

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This is edited by Jolando Scarpa. There are 30 pieces in Vol. I. Only two each are ascribed to Frescobaldi and Tarditi, the rest are anonymous. It should be interesting getting a class of students to allocate the merits of the pieces by skill as well as by style.


Schmelzer: Sonata Lanterly fur 2 Violinen, Viola da Gamba und Basso Continuo
(Harmonia Coelestis vii.) (EW 763), 2013.
iv + 14pp + 5 parts. €16.50

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The title probably implies a vagabond’s music. The opening section in C starts with that tune. There’s a change to 3/2 at bar 69 which is simpler – but I’m not sure that the editor can call it even a “a sort of galliard”. The 12/8 Allegro starts at bar 112 definitely as a gigue, ending at bar 141 with C tempo again as coda. Adding editorial figures to the bass is, I would have thought, more useful than printing a blank treble stave – the whole point of learning to play continuo is to show the chords, not the notes. It seems odd not to treat the beaming in a more logical way. For instance, in bar 6 vln II has two groups of eight semiquavers, whereas the same phrase in the gamba part is in groups of four semiquavers. It was sensible to include a viola part in C3 clef.


Schmelzer: Ciaccona fur Violine und Basso continuo
(Harmonia Coelestis xi) (EW 648), 2014.
7pp + vln & unbound score for Bc. €10.00

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The ground is (:a|Ae|F.|D.|E:||:e|Ef|D.|E.|A:). [Minims are capitals, crotchets are lower-case.] Rather than bar numbers, it is more useful to number the ground for the violinist, eg 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b etc. The bass & Bc only need to know how many times the bass is played. Simple pieces like this don’t really need the occasional missing barline (eg bars 91 & 96) to be indicated by dotted lines nor do I understand why there is a single eight-note semiquaver group in bar 83.


Georg Muffat: Sonata Violino Solo (Prag 1677) Violine und Basso continuo
(Harmonia Coelestis, x) (EW 874).
vi + 16 + 3 parts. 2014. €14.80

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I first heard this played by John Holloway on Radio 3 and we decided that it needed publication. It’s an amazing piece lasting 198 bars, the first 37 of which are Adagio and the rest Allegros and Adagios which don’t offer gaps for page-turns. My edition (£6.00) is more straight forward and cheaper for those who don’t need a score with realised keyboard.


Georg Muffat: Vier Partiten fur Cembalo (B-Bsa SA 4581)
(Harmonia Coelestis IX) (EW 769).
xi + 28pp. €17.50

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The four Partitas (C, F, E, e) are from the Berlin Sing-Akademie. Three (C, E and e) are new discoveries, while the set in F amplifies the previously known sections. The MS was copied 30 years or more after the elder Muffat had died. These are interesting to play, but it’s not clear whether straight lines are to warn the reader that two notes are in a single part even if not notated with stems in the same direction, though sometimes they might be of some musical significance. The editor seems to be a bit pedantic, but the selection is worth playing.


Clérambault: Simphonia Va : Chaconne fur Violine und Basso Continuo.
(Frutti Musicali 21)
v + 6pp + 2 parts. €11.50

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This does not have the repetitive bass of Schmelzer’s Ciaccona, whose bass has no variety apart from what the players can inspire. This sensibly avoids a blank right-hand stave, though reading it through in my head, far too much seemed to follow the violin – perhaps I’m out of touch! Two pages of MS are shown, displaying nothing odd as in the earlier pieces considered here.


Johann Ulich: Sechs Sonaten fur Blockflöte und Cembalo.
Band I (Collegium Musicum). (EW 921)
34 pp: two scores with facsimiles. €19.80

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I don’t know the composer at all, so it’s worth giving his dates (1677-1742). His father was organist at Wittenberg, which is presumably where he acquired his skill. He was organist at Zerbst from 1708, active in St Bartholomew’s church and as court musician. The VI Sonaten à Flauto con Cembalo was published in 1716 in two separate parts. The treble part is named Flauto, but that almost certainly implies recorder, whose notation is for the G on the bottom line going up two octaves. This has the first three of the six sonatas. There are two copies in score, one of which also has the recorder part in facsimile and the other the bass, both with the original prelims and the three first sonatas. The only complete copy is in the Russian State Library in Moscow, which justifies making the facsimile available. There’s a recording of 2013. Well worth buying.

Clifford Bartlett

Categories
Sheet music

Henle Verlag – April 2015

J. S. Bach: Invention und Sinfonien…
edited by Ullrich Scheideler…
HN 589. ix + 91pp, €18.00.
[HN 590 clothbound, HN 1589 without editorial fingering]

I deliberately ignored the name of the fingerer, and would personally prefer HN 1589. The figuring twists the movement to make everything legato, which is a challenge but a gross oversimplification avoiding variety of texture. Just because a piano usually sounds smoother than a harpsichord, that doesn’t mean that is what you have to do with it. In other respects, though, this is a fine edition, with a thorough editorial commentary. Curiously, the intro­duction is in German, English and French, but the French need to know German or English for the commentary. The unfingered version would be the ideal edition for early performers.


C. Ph. Bach: Flötenkonzert d-moll
Klavierauszug
HN 1207. vi + 37pp, €16.00.

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The pedantic reader will wonder why there is no Wq or Helm number. It is one of those concertos that were written for flute or keyboard – in this case, not for cello as well. The keyboard version is Wq 22 or Helm 425. It is now thought that the flute version existed before the keyboard, so there is no need to doubt its authenticity.


Beethoven: Duo fur Violine und Violoncello: fragment
edited and completed by Robert D. Levin.
HN 1265, €10.00.

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I find it difficult not to think of it as rather curious piano music – perhaps that would be less obvious if the bar lines only went through the staves. Levin has been a regular completer of the incomplete, and this seems to work well – any pro should be able to manage it. It dates from around 1792.


Mozart: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra in D major with two Rondo versions, K 412/514…
completed and edited by Henrik Wiese
Breitkopf/Henle (P-B 15128). [vi] + 29pp, €22.90.

K.412 is the normal form, though it seems now that it is no longer accepted as K412 but put back to K386b (1782). There is no slow movement. The finale comes in two versions. RV 412 was added by Süssmayr, who includes a quote from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and was probably performed at Easter in 1782. K514 is the sketchy form of Mozart’s version, with comments written above the horn stave and translated on page v. By that time Leutgeb’s musical range was getting smaller, down to a ninth. The introduction isn’t quite as clear as I expected – perhaps the German was clearer. I presume the Henle involvement is in the horn/piano version: the score is in the Breitkopf manner.

Clifford Bartlett

Categories
Recording

Handel in the Wind – The Messiah and Other Masterworks

Red Priest
71:59
Red Priest Records RP012

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ed Priest albums are always stylish, entertaining and controversial, and this one is no exception. It took me a little while to become accustomed to the sound world of Red Priest – recorder, violin, cello and harpsichord – as applied to Handel’s Messiah but I found I soon entered into it and really enjoyed their imaginative interpretations of such well-known music. There is a lot of very fine, conventional playing, contrasting with sections of virtuosic mania. The arrangements, originally by Angela East but developed and re-worked during the rehearsal process, are extremely ingenious and half the fun lies in picking out the little snippets of other pieces which creep in. There are some wonderful variations for Piers Adams in The Recorder Shall Sound, followed by a lovely duet for bass recorder and violin in Despised and Rejected. Siciliano Pedicuro (“How Beautiful are the Feet”) is another gorgeous duet, this time for violin and cello, and the only funny thing about it is the title. The jazzed-up “Hallelujah”, on the other hand, had me laughing as, after snatches of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, “Czardas” and other familiar tunes, it somehow turned into “Happy Birthday to You”.

“Lascia ch’io Pianga” from Rinaldo marks the start of the second half of the performance with some lovely violin playing by Julia Bishop. The Trio Sonata in F major op.2 no. 4 is the only piece in the programme originally composed for the Red Priest instrumental line-up, five hyper-active fast movements contrasted with beautifully ornamented slow ones. We are allowed to recover from the breath-taking “Harmonious Blacksmith Variations” with the beautiful Largo from Concerto Grosso op.3 no. 2. This leads into some very silly pizzicato which turns out to be the Passacaglia from the Keyboard Suite in G minor which has serious moments before becoming more and more manic. The finale is Zadok the Red Priest in which, as Piers Adams describes in his booklet notes, Zadok the Priest and the Queen of Sheba become unlikely but fervent lovers. Handel finally disappears into the wind with the bonus track, Aria Amorosa taken from the CD Priest on the Run.

Victoria Helby

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[wp-review]

Categories
Book

Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession

by Ian Bostridge
Faber and Faber, 2014
528 pp, £20.00
ISBN 9780571282807

The shocking impact on its first hearers of Schubert’s Winterreise is well documented; his friends were ‘dumb­founded’ by the overwhel­ming power of the grief expressed in the 24 settings of Wilhelm Muller’s poems. It is hugely popular today, but you have to prepare yourself for a performance – rather like going to King Lear – and Bostridge notes that silence usually follows the closing song, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man… the “sort of silence that otherwise only a Bach Passion can summon up”.

This guide to its grip on us, by someone as experienced in singing it and as authoritative about its background as Ian Bostridge, is a most welcome arrival. The book looks at each song in order, giving the text in the original German and then in translation, after which Bostridge explores its historical context then finding “new and unexpected connections – both contemporary and long dead – literary, visual, psychological, scientific and political”. There is a refreshing lack of musical analysis which will recommend him to the general reader, but his wide knowledge of history and art and above all his personal engagement with this great work as an ‘obsessed’ singer make his insights absolutely fascinating.

The range of associations, anecdotes and illustrations make the book an unfolding treasury: behind the songs are perhaps the failed love and dread of approaching death of the tragically young composer, and the repression and censorship of the Biedermeier world of Schubert and his friends.

But they were written in the wake of the “Winter journey to end all winter journeys”, Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, which Bostridge describes in horrifying detail. This is linked to much later history… for example, the first performance by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, given when he was a schoolboy on January 30th 1943 and interrupted by a British bombing raid. The terrible conditions of the trenches in Stalingrad are considered, and Bostridge imagines German officers and soldiers listening to a recording made by Hans Hotter: “the Winterreise might have been a consoling companion in that other winter journey in 1942, abstract emotions allowing an escape from the concrete”

More contemporary resonances are struck with C. S. Lewis, Krapp’s Last Tape, Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse. There are some unique insights given into 19th century marriage laws in Austria, and into changing attitudes to tears and weeping. Snippets of autobiography, illustrating the writer’s own journey, are revealing and touching.

Ian Bostridge’s scholarship and mastery of such a wide range of material (the bibliography alone runs to 10 pages) is hugely impressive but his touch is light; this is immensely readable, enjoyable and enlightening. His ‘obsession’ reaches out to the mind and heart of the reader, ensuring a much deeper response to this transcendental work.

Cathy Martins

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