1.10.2009

schubert



did you know that schubert wrote over 600 songs? he was like the paul mccartney of his day. he happens to be one of my favorite composers—in my top three. i have an old book. it is a biography of schubert. i think i picked it up at a garage sale, or maybe it was at my college library when they were getting rid of older, less-read books to make room for the new ones. either way, i got a good deal. i’m sure i only paid a quarter for it.

i started reading it a while back. i have not finished—not due to lack of interest or because he had an uninteresting life. only because i am not a disciplined reader. i’d rather sit and listen to his music. i also have another old book—this one was given to my father when he was a young man. the copyright is 1962, so i'm guessing he received it somewhere around that time. it is signed in the front, “to ken. from worldwide. for everything.” followed by several signatures, some of which are names that i recognize. i’m not sure what worldwide was, but i’m sure my mom will leave a comment and let me know.

i’m also pretty sure this book was given to my dad because he was such a lover of music—especially classical. i owe a great deal of my love for the genre to him. this book is part two of a two-volume set. it’s called milton cross’ encyclopedia of the great composers and their music. i don’t know what happened to volume 1. maybe he never had it. the one i have starts with mozart, as each chapter covers one composer alphabetically.

my other two favorite composers are in volume 1. but i am still happy to own the second book and have a shorter, more bite-sized morsel about the life and music of franz schubert. i wish i could put the whole text on here, but space and {probably} copyright laws would not permit. so i will just give you a few excerpts—enough to give you an idea of this musical genius and his work.

“the death of beethoven, in 1827, was a terrible blow. although it is unlikely that schubert ever came into personal contact with the master, he had from boyhood on worshiped him from a reverent distance. ‘who can ever hope to follow him?’ he once said after hearing a concert of beethoven’s music. beethoven was not altogether unaware of schubert’s existence. just before his death he went through some schubert songs which had been brought to his attention. ‘surely,’ he said, ‘there is a divine spark of genius in this schubert!’

but the giant was dead; and schubert mourned his death as he had mourned no other person. schubert carried one of the torches at beethoven’s funeral, and after beethoven had been buried, he proposed a toast at a nearby tavern to the one who would be the first among them to follow beethoven to the grave. from that moment on, he had one crowning ambition: to be buried next to beethoven.”

that was a little from the portion about his life. here is a little from what is written about his music.

“there is about a schubert work the radiant joy of creation. nothing betrays the pangs of birth pains, for the simple reason that those pains did not exist. we know the way schubert worked. his masterworks came all in one piece. he did not labor over details, or work out an idea or an effect fastidiously the way other composers did. he rarely revised. everything flowed naturally and without obstruction—not only his copious ideas and his warm sentiments, but even his frequently novel effects, his poignant modulations and striking transitions, an unexpected harmony, a breath-taking progression. he wrote only for his own delight and according to his own conscience; that delight shines in every page. he wrote easily and quickly; his best music has the ingratiating quality of spontaneity.

his music has what george eliot once described as ‘mighty youth.’ it has freshness, optimism, fullness of heart, buoyancy, vibrancy, sentimentality, excitement—qualities of youth. it has a kind of youthful charm that ingratiates itself coyly, bewitches the listener, seduces him. {no one can be more lovable than schubert.} it has a youthful kind of innocence about it, which does not depend for its effect on sophistication or passion.

his greatest gift was melody. the abundance of his lyricism, its incomparable beauty, its rich-textured poetry remain without parallel in music. he himself said that he no sooner got one idea on paper than several others started crowding into his consciousness. melodic ideas haunted him all the time, one more wonderful than the other. almost any kind of stimulus was enough to inspire a soaring lyric flight. in his songs and in the shorter piano pieces—which he could write in a single burst of inspiration with reliance on his unfailing melodic invention—he was the incomparable master.”

oh, to create art that effortlessly. i aspire to his carefree nature, especially after listening to some of his music.

i happen to have one great memory tied to a schubert song. this is something i will never forget as long as i live. my twin sister had gone to the same college i did, only shortly after i graduated. while there, she had the same voice teacher that i had, and she was required to give a voice recital at the end of the semester just the way i had to. when i learned that she was taking voice, i had recently become a great lover of schubert's music—especially his songs. i had just purchased a cd containing all schubert songs performed by mezzo-soprano, tamara takacs. my favorite song on the disc was number 5—du bist die ruh, which is german for “you are my joy”.

this song got me every time. it is that beautiful. when i learned that my sister, who is also a mezzo-soprano, would be giving a recital at the end of the semester, i practically begged her to ask her voice teacher if she could make this one of her song selections. she told me she would ask. after waiting several days, i asked her if she requested to sing that song, she told me that her teacher said no because it would be too difficult for her. i was so disappointed and a little bit miffed that the same teacher i had would judge her voice that harshly—to say she could not handle such a song. but i was mostly just disappointed that she would not be singing it and i could not live vicariously through her—you see, i had already graduated college by then. and even if i was still in college and voice class, i am an alto and would not be able to sing something in that range.

so, months passed and the day of the recital approached. i knew which songs my sister would be singing, as she had practiced the pieces in front of me many times. i was excited to go hear her sing two songs—neither of which were by schubert. what i had forgotten is, when in voice class for a semester with “mrs. ed” {as the teacher was affectionately known}, one learns several songs but only performs two or three for the recital at the end.

the day of the recital came, and my mom and dad and i went to hear my twin perform. there may have been others from my family who were there, but i do not recall. at the auditorium door, programs were handed out for the audience—there were to be at least ten other performers singing their own two songs that night. i sat down and poured over the program before it began. there it was. angela’s name and her two song choices. i believe one of the songs was i feel pretty from west side story. i do not recall what her other listed song was, but whatever it was, i had heard her practice it many times.

she sang her first song and was followed by some other students' performances. there was a short break, and then the recitals resumed. after the break, angela was to sing her next number. all song performances were accompanied by piano—the singer stood in front of a very grand piano. angela got up on stage to sing, and seemed a bit nervous. the piano began to play. it was a very familiar sound that sent me into the strangest sensation i have ever known. it was confusion mixed with joy and delight and completely overwhelming love and admiration for my sister. you see, the notes coming from the piano were of the introduction to du bist die ruh. by the time she began to sing, she could see the confusion and joy on my face, which made her so glad, because she had accomplished what she set out to—she surprised me! as she began to sing, i could hear a shakiness in her voice that would not have otherwise been there. i think we were both on the verge of tears. i’m pretty sure tears did form for me, actually.

the very best part of the whole thing is that she went to the trouble to have one single program made up specially for me. i was the only one in the audience whose program did not read du bist die ruh as her second recital piece. i was the only one in the audience who was not aware that she would be singing this for me. in fact, not only did they all have a clue what she was singing, but many of them were aware of the surprise that she had planned for me all semester. i don’t even know if she knows it to this day, but that is one of the closest and most special moments i have ever experienced with my twin sister. utter joy is what i feel when i think of that story. and how appropriate, given that the song title means "you are my joy".

now that i have finished this post, i am going to put in my cd and play number 5. and you can be sure i’ll be smiling as i listen.

15 comments:

angel cake said...

Angel-cry.

Did you know one of the last gifts I gave dad was a cd collection of Schubert? It was his favorite composer.

As far as recitals go, that won the prize for most sentimental. The recital that won the prize for most hilarious was the time I sang another German song and made up the second half of the song, as I'd forgotten the words. No one knew except for my recital teacher who knew the words by heart (and possibly any German-speaking member of the audience). Hope I wasn't saying anything bad... :)

Do you remember that one? We have it on video. At the end, as I'm taking my bow, a laugh came bursting through my pursed lips that I'd been trying to hold at least until off the stage. But I couldn't help it. It was too unbelievable that I'd just song a verse of nonsense German, and I was the only one who knew it!

Georgia B. said...

i totally remember it! you were so adorable. :)

i'm glad you saw my post. i was wondering if you would, and even if you did, i was wondering if you would read. ;-P

Georgia B. said...

oh, and yes, i knew you gave dad that collection. i was with you when you bought it. i was jealous. i was wishing you were buying it for me. :)

it was a boxed set of his entire works. that is a mammoth compilation!

i think i'm gonna have to borrow that from mama some time.

thanks for reading this, ang. i love you.

angel cake said...

i have it. she gave the set to me. you'll have to check it out of my library. ;)

love you too.

call me!

Georgia B. said...

too funny! :) okay, when i visit your new place, we'll listen.

i will call you later this afternoon. we are getting ready to go have lunch with Aaron Heider and his wife. i know—you're wondering how that happened. i'll tell you all about it later tonight.

:)

Char said...

this made me cry in a good way - I'm going to call my sister.

it also reminds of me of the poem by e.e. cummings used in the movie "In Her Shoes".

gorgeousness

Jekisa Jean said...

oh my gosh i am crying too!
seriously, i feel like such an idiot sitting here alone in my room!
but the picture is just so wonderful,
and it's even better since i know both of you and can totally envision the looks on both of your faces!

that was one of the sweetest stories i have heard in a long time!

p.s.
HAH! and german recital story was a HOOT to read right after too :)

Rochelle said...

That is so amazing. What a great surprise, and that you two had that special moment!! Thanks for sharing :)

Rochelle said...

That is so amazing. What a great surprise, and that you two had that special moment!! Thanks for sharing :)

~B~ said...

That makes me want to jump on an airplane and go see my sister. To have that closeness is something that you are so very blessed to have. You and your whole family just sound so full of life, srtistic abilities. It is great to be able to peek into this life through your blog. Thank you for sharing another touching post with a fantastic angle of the post. I like the close up on the end. I will now go look up this composer. =)

Claire said...

this fills me with a good kind of jealousy. i have never known this type of bond and i envy those who do. being an only child has some major disadvantages, this missing connection being one of them.

but i also add good because it is a blessing to witness this type of beauty in motion.

i love it when you tell stories in your blog posts.

Chris said...

Wow, great story. That must have been an incredible performance :)

Jamie said...

Awwww, great story! The sister relationship can be so powerful.

shilvia said...

whoaaaa!!! one of a kind story here :)

Oliag said...

I am definitly calling my sister tonight!