Great Caspar‘s Ghost! Check out the latest existential moment from our favorite Pinhead…(love the Unitarian crack, too…)
A picture so famous it’s become a postage stamp. In the words of Schubert scholar Janet Wasserman, “Perhaps the single-most striking exemplar in nineteenth century European art of the lone figure in nature is the painting by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (The Wanderer Above the Mists) ca.1817/1818. The painting of the wanderer with his back turned to the viewer and facing the misty crags below him has been reproduced numerous times in our contemporary era, to the point of cliché, as emblematic of modern man’s alienation. Often used as the theme of man in his private existential agony living in nature and yet pitted against it, Friedrich’s wanderer has found even greater resonance in Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise……
The entire article is can be found below. But I wish you could see some of the pictures she’s referencing!
After exploring the Chopin connection in the previous post, time to revisit a wonderful piece by Alex Ross in the New Yorker from a few winters ago about One Evening: “The British director Katie Mitchell, in collaboration with the tenor Mark Padmore, the actor Stephen Dillane, and the pianist Andrew West, had the excellent idea of creating a theatre piece around Samuel Beckett’s intense relationship with Winterreise, weaving his poetry and prose into a live performance of the cycle.”
Revisiting a startling discovery from the Radio Chopin series…
Take a listen to Chopin’s A Stranger Here Himself…
“A stranger I came, A stranger I depart…” These opening lines of “Good Night”, the first song in Franz Schubert’s cycle, Winterreise, or Winter Journey resonated with Chopin. So much so that they spilled over into the manuscript for his Sonata for Cello and Piano.
A dead ringer, so to speak! In Schubert’s song cycle the anti-hero is a dying poet. Themes of banishment, lost love and icy despair pervade. Just as they did in Chopin’s life at the time he composed his Cello Sonata. It was winter. His health was in rapid decline. He was twice exiled: he’d left his native Poland for good, and George Sand had just evicted him from their nest with the publication of an exposé thinly-veiled as a work of fiction.
Which brings us back to the first movement of Chopin’s Cello Sonata. It’s problematic. It puzzled even his closest allies. Was it too intimate? Wasting in his deathbed, Chopin asked to hear it, only to find he could bear no more than the first few measures. He omitted the movement from the sonata’s 1848 premiere. Clearly, it had profound personal significance. Most likely because he turned to—and quoted—Schubert’s song at the time of his separation from George Sand, which she had publicly portrayed as entirely his fault. Was it regret? Or, as in the final stanzas in Schubert’s song, did the ailing Chopin recognize his fate was sealed?
These are the last words spoken
Soon I’ll be out of sight
A simple farewell message
Goodnight, my love, good night.
So it’s the middle of January. Inspired by the ATC tale in yesterday’s post, a few more “Winterreise” entries this week. This time, it’s pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach in our WGBH Fraser Performance Studio, recalling his difficult childhood in war-torn Europe, and launches into a performance with Boston Symphony Orchestra Associate Principal oboist of a transcription of “Das Wirtshaus” (The Inn) from Schubert’s song-cycle “Winterreise.” Cathy Fuller is the WCRB Classical New England host.