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Schubert: Winterreise 2

Mark Stone & Stephen Barlow

SAT 6 JUNE 2020

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Deeply melancholic, Schubert (1797 – 1828) was dying of syphilis as he worked on Winterreise. His friend Mayrhofer puts it thus “life had lost its rosiness and winter was upon him.”

Schubert’s last task in life was the correction of the proofs for part 2 of Winterreise.

1. Gute Nacht (Good Night): A stranger I arrived; a stranger I depart. In May, he won the love of a girl and hoped to marry her. But now the world is dreary, and he must leave, in winter, in the dead of night, finding his own way in the trackless snow. Love loves to wander—from one person to the next. He writes Good Night on her gate as he passes to show he thought of her.

2. Die Wetterfahne (The Weathervane): The weathervane on her house creaks in the shifting winds, mocking him and showing the inconstant hearts inside. What do they care about my suffering? Their child is a wealthy bride!

3. Gefror’ne Tränen (Frozen Tears): He notices he has been crying and chides his tears for being only lukewarm so that they freeze. They come out of his heart hot enough to melt all the winter’s ice!

4. Erstarrung (Frozen): He looks in vain for her footprints beneath the snow where she once walked with him through the green meadow; he wants to melt away the snow and ice with his tears. He has nothing to remember her by except his pain. She is frozen in his heart; if it thaws, her image will flow away.

5. Der Lindenbaum (The Linden Tree): The tree, a reminder of happier days, seems to call him, promising rest. But he turns away, into the cold wind. And now, miles away, he still hears it calling him: Here you would find peace.

6. Wasserflut (Flood): The cold snow thirstily sucks up his tears; when the warm winds blow, the snow and ice will melt, and the brook will carry them through the town to where his sweetheart lives.

7. Auf dem Flusse (On the Stream): The gaily rushing stream lies silent under a hard crust. In the ice, he carves a memorial to their love. The river is an image of his heart swelling up powerfully beneath the frozen surface.

8. Rückblick (Backwards Glance): He recounts his headlong flight from the town and recalls his springtime arrival in the city of inconstancy, and two girlish eyes which captivated him. When he thinks of that time, he would like to go back and stand silently in front of her house.

9. Irrlicht (Will o’ the Wisp): The false light of the will-o’-the-wisp has led him astray, but he is used to that. Every path leads to the same goal. Our joys and sorrows are but a trick of the light. Every stream reaches the sea, every sorrow its grave.

10. Rast (Rest): Only now that he has stopped to rest does he realize how tired and sore he is. And in the quiet he feels for the first time the worm which stings him inwardly.

11. Frühlingstraum (Dream of Spring): He dreams of springtime and love, but wakes to cold and darkness and the shrieking of ravens. He sees frost leaves painted on the window. When will they turn green? When will he again embrace his beloved?

12. Einsamkeit (Loneliness): He wanders, like a sad and lonely cloud, through the bright and happy Life around him. Even when the storms were raging. I was not so miserable.

13. Die Post (The Post): He hears a post horn. Why does my heart leap up so? There’s no letter for you! But maybe there’s some news of her?

14. Der greise Kopf (The Gray Head): Frost has turned his hair gray and he rejoices at being an old man. But when it thaws, he is horrified to be a youth again: How far it is still to the grave.

15. Die Krähe (The Crow): A crow has been following him. It has never left him, expecting to take his body as its prey. It won’t be much longer now. Crow, show me constancy unto death!

16. Letzte Hoffnung (Last Hope): He gambles on a leaf quivering in the wind. If it falls from the tree, all his hopes are dashed. He falls to the ground himself and weeps over the grave of his hopes.

17. Im Dorfe (In the Village): Dogs bark, and all the people are asleep, dreaming of success and failure, finding on their pillows what eluded them in life. I am done with all dreaming. Why should I linger among the sleepers?

18. Der stürmische Morgen (The Stormy Morning): The storm is an image of his heart, wild and cold like the winter.

19. Täuschung (Deception): A dancing light wants to lead him astray, and he is glad to go along. Behind ice and night and horror it shows him a warm, bright house and a loving wife within. Illusion is all he has to go on.

20. Der Wegweiser (The Signpost): Why do I take secret ways and avoid the other travelers? I’ve committed no crime. What foolish desire drives me to seek the wastelands? He journeys endlessly, seeking peace and finding none. A signpost points the way: I must travel a road where no one has ever yet returned.

21. Das Wirtshaus (The Inn): He comes to a graveyard and wants to enter. But all the rooms in this inn are taken; he resolves to go on his way with his faithful walking-stick.

22. Mut! (Have Courage!): He shakes the snow from his face and sings cheerfully to silence his heart’s stirrings, striding into the world, against wind and weather: If there’s no God on earth, then we ourselves are gods!

23. Die Nebensonnen (The Sun Dogs): He sees three suns staring at him in the sky. You are not my suns! Once I too had three, but the best two have now set. If only the third would follow, I’ll be happier in the darkness.

24. Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man): Back of the village stands a hurdy-gurdyman, cranking his instrument with frozen fingers. His begging bowl is always empty; no one listens, and the dogs growl at him. But his playing never stops. Strange old man. Shall I come with you? Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to accompany my songs?