If you could travel in time and visit any musical moment, where would you go?
Would you go to the contentious premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring?
Or sit quietly in a salon while Chopin played nocturnes?
Would you sip wine in a Paris café with Les Six?
Or listen to the fiery playing of Paganini?
Perhaps you’d prefer the soulful notes of Marin Marais.
Or maybe you would sit quietly in a chapel while Bach played improvisations now lost to time.
Where (when) would you go? I invite all of you to tell us your choice in the comments section.
While there are any number of places I can think of, unmissable moments in music, there is only one I could not resist.
Vienna. The night Schubert played and sang Winterreise to a stunned group of friends.
“Come to Schober’s today and I will play you a cycle of terrifying songs; they have affected me more than has ever been the case with any other songs.” He then, with a voice full of feeling, sang the entire Winterreise for us. We were altogether dumbfounded by the sombre mood of these songs, and Schober said that one song only, “Der Lindenbaum”, had pleased him. Thereupon Schubert leaped up and replied: “These songs please me more than all the rest, and in time they will please you as well.”1
Indeed, they have affected me more than has ever been the case with any other songs. I have listened to many performances. While I have my personal favorite, I have always wondered who comes closest to Schubert’s intent. To whom would Schubert say, “Genauso” [just like that].
Until we work out that time travel issue, we will never know. In the meantime, I will present the last in that cycle of terrifying songs. Here is Ian Bostridge’s unblinking performance of Der Leiermann. Julius Drake is the pianist.
So where would you go?
- Haywood, Ernest. “Terrifying Songs,” Radio Times 20 January 1939.
- Franz Schubert Winterreise. Directed by David Alden. Performed by Ian Bostridge, tenor, and Julius Drake, pianist. Kultur, NVC Arts, 1997. DVD.
- Ian Bostridge, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of An Obsession. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
- Youens, Susan, Retracing a Winter’s Journey: Schubert’s Winterreise. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
Image attribution: Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5. Photo by CityGypsy11 (Flickr.com/Creative Commons [CC BY-NC 2.0]) https://www.flickr.com/photos/25477528@N00/5181143856/in/photolist-8TQHyu-hzjSsg-rnkinA-phbtD3-omuB6T-5nu51g-nAyCSs-D3F8Aw-ehGYAB-5MaEoD-7CLMwW-twrMR-9i2NH2-5sLQsK-Em3Ezy-4b2uGW-o3RkA5-qpfnRs-a6Woxh-fdnVtx-qvBRUA-d3ckfN-8NXsDq-a4ZqqF-g8aN2n-bpJg2C-6muSk3-6FyvTe-aFaciq-4BWGJX-fMfuAx-8vFqzY-8Mnujs-2kDgvu-fUX9xG-9CPXwY-qC4G4o-dtoDRV-9CM3bg-7k8Cct-7kcvW7-7k8Cqp-9K9Nae-dQQ2dN-dbLfZe-dofPjp-98XpL3-eZeLcs-pEQzsw-8vzJUx