MUSIC—Follow the Lieder: The Songs of Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert by August Rieder
Franz Schubert by August Rieder
Although Franz Schubert (1797–1828) lived a short life in Vienna of only 31 years, he left us a substantial and wonderful treasure chest of music. But his most important legacy rests on his over 600 songs, or lieder—masterpieces of the marriage of text and music, and voice with piano. With a natural gift for melody, he brought a fresh, expressive, and more emotional quality to his works, as the burgeoning 19th-century Romantic trend in the arts developed into the full-fledged movement. The genius lies not so much in how Schubert set a text to music as how he translated the text into the language of music. In this seminar, we will delve into the techniques, process, and results of Schubert’s lieder style, opening eyes and ears to this magical musical world. Exhibiting innocence, passion, sorrow, joy, and playfulness, these songs show us why the Viennese have long claimed that Schubert should be experienced with one eye wet, the other dry.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“Such is the spell of Schubert’s emotional world, that it very nearly blinds us
to the greatness of his craftsmanship!”

– Franz Liszt


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After 30 years in the Music Dept. of CBC Radio, Rick Phillips is now a busy writer, reviewer, teacher, speaker, webcaster, host of classical music tours, and a longtime seminar leader at Toronto Pursuits. The Schubert lieder have long been a love of Rick’s in how they simply but powerfully capture emotion, meaning, and expression. The art of poetry and the art of music are combined into a third art form—the song.

Links to the complete poems and English translations to the two Schubert song cycles the seminar will cover: “Die schöne Mullerin” and “Winterreise.”

Listening is optional, but those who are interested can also find links to performances of “Die schöne Mullerin”: and “Winterreise”:

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Toronto Pursuits 2015