Schedule? What schedule? I do apologise for the lack of posts recently – I’ve been sick and then uninspired. I think for the time being, I’m going to abandon my sequence of posts on Monday and Friday and just post things as the mood takes me.
And today, the mood takes me to Schubert land. I’m in a tired sort of mood, and this is just the sort of music I can float along to and relax…
This piece has history for me. In fact, quite a lot of Schubert’s Lieder carry history for me, because one of the oldest books of sheet music I have is a collection of Schubert Lieder that belonged to my mother’s father – the grandfather who died when I was too young to really remember him (I was three or four, I think). The book came into my possession when I was twelve or so, I think – certainly in my piano-playing days – so for most of these Lieder I’m far more aware of the piano part than I am of the voice part. I used to attempt to play and sing at the same time, of course, but while my piano skills were quite good at the time, my skill at singing Lieder set for high voice while crouched over a piano was not, shall we say, greatly admired.
These days, I can sing the Lieder quite well, but, alas, I’ve gone from being a good pianist and a mediocre singer to being a good singer and a mediocre pianist. The latter is more fun, but it’s a bit of a pity I never managed both at once! Too much of a time commitment, really…
Anyway. This particular piece was always one of my favourites to play and attempt to sing. I love the rippling notes in the piano, and the way the voice follows it, just a third below. And speaking of voices, isn’t Ian Bostridge gorgeous here? He has just the right sort of lightness in his voice to match the delicacy of the piano part. I could listen to this endlessly. Though I’m not entirely sure why the person who made this video thinks it’s about ballet. (It’s really not)
Just for contrast, here’s a version by German soprano Frieda Hempel, recorded in 1935. It’s a very different style of singing (one of the delights of recording is that one gets to hear the different fashions in both voice production and performance style over the last century and a half), and her voice sounds quite plain, almost speech-like, with very little vibrato. There is, too, a real plaintiveness in the final verse, when the singer contemplates the passing of time and the vanishing past. I imagine that for a German expat living in the US in the 1930s, these words would have been very easy to sing with sincere feeling.
I must admit, I’m also a bit intrigued by Hempel simply because she would have been more or less contemporary with my Austrian great-grandmother, also a professional singer, but one whose voice was, as far as I know, never recorded. I like to imagine that she might have sounded similar.