Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Steps Schubert Lieder -- Follow Up on "Date With A Pianist"

I wrote here a couple of weeks ago about how excited I was to be getting together with our church organist to work on Bach's "Erbarme Dich." (See post "Date With A Pianist")  This was an unexpected and welcome development in my avocational singer life, because, as I mentioned in the article, a pianist to collaborate with has been hard for me to come by thus far.

Well, I'm pleased to let  you know that the "Erbarme Dich" practice session went very well, so well in fact, that we have commenced to meet once a week on a regular basis.  There is an additional bonus to our little music sessions in that there are people gathering for a novena towards the end of the rehearsals, so I have the benefit now of a little audience to help me work on performance nerves.  It really is quite a good opportunity for me to work in this way.

Not only that, after a couple of sessions together, the organist/pianist has suggested we do a 1/2 hour recital together.  He told me that he loves Schubert. Did I know any Schubert?  Thinking of the two dusty old pieces of Schubert lieder sitting on my music shelf at home which I had received from my first teacher 20 years ago but never learned, I responded quickly and eagerly "Oh, yes, I have some Schubert at home!"

(This reminds me of the way my mom responded when my father asked her -- on their first date, a blind date --  "Do you play golf?" and she --  thinking of the first couple of golf lessons she had recently taken --  responded rapidly, "Golf?  Oh yes, I play golf!")

He said, "Good, then maybe we could do a few Schubert pieces, and there is a Russian composer, Glinka, whom I love.  Do you know Glinka?  We could do some of that.  I can teach you to speak Russian."

Well, like all ideas and projects, I am keeping myself on an even keel.  Sometimes things don't work out.  A number of years ago another one of these church organists at another church was going to use me as a cantor and told me "I can't pay you, but I can provide you with opportunities for growth as a musical soloist."  Sure!  Right! He had given me music to look over, music composed by his friend.  I got very excited about it.  But there was a heartbreak when it didn't ever amount to anything.  He got a little money in his budget, and found another singer.  She was a professional and he could pay her!  Hmmmph!

Okay, so now I'm older and wiser, so I'm going to just take everything in stride.  I would love to do a recital, and this church is really great acoustically now.  It used to be very poorly set up for music, but they renovated it last Fall and took out all the carpets and put in this great tile.  They brought in a grand piano as an addition to the organ and made a raised platform for the choir.  It's a modern setting in the round with lots of light. There is parking. Yes, it would be a lovely place for a little recital.

So ...  yes ... where were we?  Schubert lieder!  I brought the subject up to my teacher the next day and asked her if there was a place I might start, she knowing my voice and all.  I'm sure amongst the vast number of Schubert lieder pieces there are varying levels of difficulty, and I would need something manageable for a beginner.  She suggested "An die musik" as a place to start.

I wasted no time in listening on youtube and finding and ordering a Schubert lieder anthology.  Glinka, I've realized, is going to be slightly more difficult to find, but I'm planning to call up Glendower Jones (Classical Vocal Repertoire) to help me.  This will be a challenge, because I hate to make phone calls, but one cannot order from this company online and so I shall need to place a call.  I have heard they are very helpful there, so that's a next step for me.

Even if this all turns out to be a dead end, as some other "opportunities" have, I appreciate this new development because it gives me a direction.  As an avocational singer, having a direction and focus and knowing where to head next can sometimes be difficult.  So, if I follow the path over to Schubert lieder and some Russian compositions, I will be enriching my life and filling in some more gaps in my very  incomplete musical knowledge.  Oh, yes, I think my pianist friend mentioned Brahms too!  That sounds nice.

In my practice room, I have put together a "soup-to-nuts" presentation of teaching myself my first Schubert lieder.  I hope you will enjoy observing the process.

Does this mean I'm giving up my 24 Italian Aria project?  No. I have been working on "Quella Fiamma" in the practice room too, and feel almost ready to add that to my Italian Aria collection in Frescamari's Performance Space.  It's just that now I will move a little more slowly.  I don't consider myself having "failed" at the 24 Arias in 24 Weeks Project.  I consider it a big success because I picked a project and I set my foot on the path and now it has brought me to some new places.  A project should be a vehicle to growth, and it has been.  I will just change the shape and form of the project as new factors come to play.


  1. Hey, how is this project coming along? If this is your first serious foray into Schubert lieder, there's a lot of fun in store for you!

    If you're looking for some of the more approachable pieces, a few Schubert pieces that I've seen assigned to beginners are: Seligkeit, Der Jüngling an der Quelle, Der Tod und das Mädchen, An die Musik, and Meeres Stille. But there are plenty more that I think you could tackle.

    Regarding German pronunciation, if you're proficient with IPA you'll definitely want to check out the Beaumont Glass book "Schubert's Complete Song Texts" which contains the IPA transcriptions: http://tinyurl.com/2348xbe

    I listened to your reading of "An die Musik" - not too shabby, given that you're relatively new to German. There are a few pronunciation errors here and there. I'd be happy to help you out with this text sometime, perhaps by phone. Also, just FYI, the word "lieder" is the plural of "lied" - so a more correct title for your audio post would be "My First Schubert Lied".

    Anyhow, I'm excited to hear about how the Schubert/Glinka project is going!

    P.S. Glendower is a super-nice guy - don't be shy to give him a ring!

  2. P.P.S. Did you figure out "seufzer"? It is pronounced almost like "zoyft-sur" except that you round the lips just a bit on the "y".

  3. Hey, BY -- Thanks SO much for the help!!! I've moved along on acquiring some Schubert song books, and I have some pronunciation guides now. But you know I'll want the guide you've recommended too! It's hard to keep up on the blog with all the steps, but it will all come out eventually.

    One of the last corrections I got from my teacher before the lessons ended was that "seufzer," Although you will hear me still do it incorrectly with the stuff I just posted count singing the An Die Musick today. The reason it's still wrong is that I wrote the correction in another copy of the music and I was so excited about getting moving with the count singing I didn't take the time to go look up the correction -- I just went with what I had so far.

    But I better get it corrected before I drill it too much into the motor memory the wrong way.

  4. I'm glad to hear that the Schubert project is progressing! While you're between teachers, if you have any questions about the German that you'd like to ask a real human being :) feel free to call/email. I'm not a diction guru but I can give you the basics. Don't feel like you have to go it alone! Have fun!

  5. Thank you! I shall definitely keep this generous offer in mind.