Schubert's Winterreise

There are certain events in life where you can't believe your luck that you had just happened to be there and it has nothing to do with your own intentions. Today was one of them.

My teacher from when I was in my teens asked if I could page-turn for him for a concert. It was for Schubert's Winterriese. The singer is quite a famous Japanese baritone who has sung in the Opera Houses in Europe and who has been singing the Winterreise for over 50 years. He is 84 years old. I was asked to come for the rehearsal a week before the concert and I am ashamed to say that it was the very first time that I had heard Winterreise as a whole. The singer,with age,was struggling a bit,with coughing and stamina,but still I was deeply moved by this amazing piece and also by my teacher's beautiful playing.

Coming home from that rehearsal,I suddenly realized that I may never have the chance to perform it. So, I thought I should take this opportunity to try to learn more about it. I bought the music and as I have the singers bible "Lieder Line by Line" by Lois Phillips who was also my teacher in London,I put it aside by the music and have been practicing it in the past week.
What a piece!!! I knew that it was an epic piece but never knew what a MASTERPIECE it was!!! First of all,Muller's poems are SO beautiful,and also for me,feel so true. It is definitely a young persons story. Although dark and heavy and slow,there is also much passion and deep angst and hopelessness that one only feels in youth. ( I think that as we get older,we realize that no matter how bad things get,life still goes on and that we just have to deal with it.) And then,of course Schubert's music. So simple and yet so moving. I have totally fell in love with it.

Anyway,today was the concert and I think everyone backstage was a bit worried. The singer had his arm in a sling as he had fell the previous day and he was having trouble walking so came on stage with a cane. He was not looking good....

BUT..... Once the performance started,it was truly amazing. The Winterriese is an 80 minute song cycle. Usually in a classical concert,you have two halves,one being around 40~45 minutes with an interval in the middle. Just staying on stage and keeping your concentration without a break for 80 minutes seems impossible. Let alone singing at 84 years old!!!

Admittedly,the voice was unstable at times,but there was not one single cough (didn't even have water on stage!) and his stamina seemed to grow as the performance went on!!! He did 3 encores as well!! It really seemed like the music had taken over him and there was something really transcendental about the performance. I was taken not only into "Schubert's Winterreise"'s world but was taken even beyond. Although I had to page turn,I was deeply deeply moved several times sitting by the piano on stage and had to stop myself from welling up saying to myself "this is not the time nor the place!!".

I feel so lucky and grateful for having been able to be there and experiencing something so special. I was shown first hand,the true power of music.