After Die schöne Müllerin

Last night my DePauw faculty colleagues Keith Tonne (tenor) and Amanda Hopson (piano) did a wonderful performance of the complete Die schöne Müllerin cycle by Schubert. They even had the poems Schubert didn’t use in the cycle (as I understand it, programs had run out by the time I arrived) read aloud between several of the songs.

It was a beautiful performance, exceedingly well-prepared. A large audience, much larger than the usual faculty recital audience (hmm, maybe things are picking up?–well, we’ll see how things are 40 recitals from now), if a bit smaller than at my alternative concert a week before. The audience was quiet and respectful, and when I looked around the hall everyone seemed quite attentive. It was the a traditional concert environment at its best, and I enjoyed the concert very much.

It’s the kind of concert that can be done in academia, where there’s no extra fee paid to the faculty performers and where no tickets need to be sold. And academia is one of the places where it’s entirely appropriate to do formal recitals with a reverently quiet audience. As I reflected on that, other thoughts came to mind as well:

  • This works in academia and in a few major cities, but I don’t think leider recitals are doing well anywhere else.
  • Would applause between some of the songs, especially after the lighter ones, have absolutely ruined the possibility for a deep artisitic experience?
  • It was the end of a very long day and I’d had a large dinner. If I’d been able to clap once in a while, to express myself in some physical way, would I expereinced less occasional sleepiness and mind wandering. In other words, with some breaks in concentration, would my concentration during the music have been more focused?
  • It takes an audience well-versed in classical music to provide the kind of respectful, attentive, quiet envionment which was so enjoyable last night (and that’s one of the great things about academia–where outside of a college or university in central Indiana would one find such an audience for lieder?).
  • Even if we accept that this is the ideal format in which to experience a perfromance of something likeDie schöne Müllerin , this is not the format to bring in a new audience, an audience that once involved in classical music through a more participatory experience might then be ready and interested in experiencing a more “serious” concert environment.

And I’m still thinking!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “After Die schöne Müllerin

  1. Anne-Lise

    I really like your reflections on concert attendance and bringing classical music to a larger or different audience.
    I think that with lieder you also have a possibility to get a new audience. Because I’ve noticed recently that there are quite a lot of people who really like poetry, but who have no interest in classical music, or at least, that’s what they think. With the format you described and maybe a discussion about the texts in relation to the music, you can spark their interest. And maybe provide translations.
    In my country there is a former rock star who has made translations of die Winterreise and the Mattheus Passion in Dutch, and made cd’s of them and also gave concerts. The cd’s were sold by a large drugstore and they all sold out. The reason for this is probably the man’s name and the fact that the texts were more understandable (because they were in our own language) and they were not so expensive.

  2. Eric Edberg

    Anne-lise, thanks for the comment. Are you in Holland?

  3. Anne-Lise

    Yes, I am.

    BTW, I just watched BBC’s Last night of the proms. Another very fine example of bringing classical music to a large audience. You can still see it online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/ .

  4. Eric Edberg

    Thanks for the link!

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