Florian Boesch – Artist in residence
Franz Schubert - "Winterreise"
Liederzyklus nach Gedichten von Wilhelm Müller (1827)
Friday, 29. January 2021, 7 pm
One year before his death, Schubert completed the song cycle The Winter Journey to texts by the poet Wilhelm Müller. Travel is a theme that pervades Romanticism. Almost every German-speaker knows that “Wandering is the miller’s joy”, it being the first line of a popular folk song with lyrics from a poem by Müller who, as a writer, is still overshadowed by Heinrich Heine. Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill), Schubert’s first song cycle, is also based on poems by Müller and still has a chronological narrative. The Winter Journey, written five years later, is a string of associations encountered en route by a traveller. When Schubert began setting Müller’s poems in February 1827 he was already incurably ill with syphilis. His friend and patron Joseph von Spaun found the composer deeply melancholic at this time, and he also seemed physically unwell. When Schubert sang The Winter Journey for a small circle of friends “in a voice full of feeling”, Spaun was “dumbfounded by the sombre mood of these songs”. Schubert himself, who had announced The Winter Journey as “a cycle of terrifying songs” remarked that “These songs please me more than all the rest, and in time they will please you as well”. In the extensive repertoire of baritone Florian Boesch the lied occupies a very special position and is his own particular passion. As this season’s artist in residence, Boesch will also be performing as a lied singer at the Theater an der Wien and will present his own subtly individual approach to Schubert’s Winter Journey in which he seeks a personal evocation of a work based on real life: As a volunteer in the Prussian army the young Wilhelm Müller was rapidly promoted to lieutenant, then just as quickly cashiered when he fell in love with a Jewish tradesman’s wife in Brussels. Robbed of all hope, Müller marched back to Berlin from Brussels alone, on foot and in the depths of winter. Schubert, his death now inevitable, transposed Müller’s prevailing mood into music: the wanderer’s heart is in the grip of everlasting winter, only at night does he recall happier days, and he wavers between torpor and a hopless yearning for a better life.