Tuesday 8 February 2011


As part of pianist Gary Matthewman's Lied in London, we heard a private recital of Schubert's Winterreise on Sunday, with bass Matthew Rose. I must confess that I've always been uneasy about performing Schubert's songs in transposition, though I have to agree that this is me being rather precious. After all, the sound and pitch of Schubert's own pianos would have been vastly different from a contemporary grand piano such as the one Gary Matthewman played on Sunday. And any objections I might have had about adjustments that might have been made were swept away by the sheer interpretative power of Rose's voice. Heard in a large drawing room with an audience of less than 100 people, this was both intimate and powerful and we certainly needed a strong drink after Rose and Matthewman had finished the recital.

But to return to Schubert's songs, I supposed the biggest problem I have is when the vocal line is transposed an octave so that a person of a different sex can sing it. Now, Schubert might have been happy to let this happen? Did he perform his songs for female voice himself? If he did, then I can hardly complain. But Schubert's piano parts are so perfectly constructed, that to completely alter the relationship between piano and voice by moving the voice part up an octave (or down) is surely an awkward move. Perhaps I need to do more research into this subject.

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