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Thread: Winterreise, Is Female Voice Appropriate

  1. #46
    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    It must be awful to be such a purist. Such an attitude would relegate to nonentities such pieces as Ravel's great orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures, all those wonderfully effective highlight slices of operatic selections "without words", Leopold Stokowski's soul wrenching Bach Toccata and Fugue, Albinoni's famous Adagio, Pachelbel's famous Canon, Beethoven's own piano transcription of his Violin Concerto ... let alone all that wonderful guitar music (such as Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, the Sonata K. 213 by Domenico Scarlatti, and Bach's monumental suites, partitas and fugues "originally written for a lute". Alas ... so much great music in any sort of transcription must be a sorrowful bane to such a purist. I remain content I am no such purist.
    What a dramatic overstatement.

    No, it doesn't follow that because someone prefers a male singer telling a man's story in one specific instance that they dislike transcriptions and other unconventional arrangements.
    "No one chooses the tuba" - Alexander von Puttkamer

  2. #47
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Why can't you just think of it as about lesbians?
    Good question. Many men have issues with lesbians and women in general. I don't. I believe in reincarnation and I sincerely hope to come back as a lesbian.

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    Senior Member SixFootScowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    Not a Fischer-Dieskau fan? He has recorded it so many times you can't have missed him.
    No, I am not a fan. Maybe I should be but every time I get to chasing a particular singer it leads to disappointment as I burn out on it and then have a lot of CDs to sit on a shelf. With as many recordings F-D has done of winterreise, there surely are some great ones.

    If there was a recording of Winterreise with Rüdiger Wohlers I would buy it in a minute. Great tenor, not much recorded material.
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    Because lesbians or other females never were travelling laborers or artisans in a early 19th century winter landscapes. Admittedly, this background is even stronger in the Müllerin but it's there nevertheless. This is a not a random single song of love, longing or farewell, I usually would not see such a tension there but it is a whole setting.

    I really think it depends on the particular framing. I have almost no problem (and I think there are more female voice recordings) with Mahler's Wayfarer songs sung by a woman, neither with Kindertotenlieder (although only or two make it explicit that it is the father's voice) etc. I have never heard Dichterliebe or Müllerin with a female voice, they might be similarly awkward.
    Admittedly, I tend to prefer male voices in songs with piano only anyway but often prefer female in orchestral songs (I vastly prefer mezzo/alto in LvdE and in the Rückert settings)

    But again, am I mistaken or is this almost only in one direction, maybe because three of the most famous cycles have a male persona. Why are some neutral cycles like Sea pictures apparently (almost) never sung by male voices? Because transposition would be too much trouble with a big orchestral score?
    I think you are needlessly creating a rod for your own back with your extreme literal approach. In fact I hadn’t ever noticed that the voice of the poem is a travelling labourer - where does it say that?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-20-2021 at 04:33.

  5. #50
    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I think you are needlessly creating a rod for your own back with your extreme literal approach. In fact I hadn’t ever noticed that the voice of the poem is a travelling labourer - where does it say that?
    So you never bothered to take a good look at the words and you call someone out for being too literal?

    The first song reveals the most. The man is a wanderer, came to the town in spring, by May was courting a woman. The master it speaks of is her father. Similar to Die Schöne Müllerin, the narrator was an itinerant laborer who worked for the father and fell in love with the daughter.

    Now it's winter and his seasonal work is done, the union with the daughter fell apart, he's no longer welcome in her house, and feels the town is rejecting him, too. It's time to move on anyway.

    Speaking of which, it's interesting that there are far fewer performances of Die Schöne Müllerin by women, as someone mentioned. That song cycle exhibits a larger variety of masculine behavior, including romantic jealousy, conflict with a rival, and unrequited affection resulting in a reckless act.
    Last edited by Open Book; Sep-20-2021 at 15:56.
    "No one chooses the tuba" - Alexander von Puttkamer

  6. #51
    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SixFootScowl View Post
    Countertenor, eh? Well I suppose those who feel it must be sung by a male, should be okay with this one. However, a purist may not care for the countertenor any more than a bass, since it was originally written for a tenor (so says Wikipedia).

    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    It must be awful to be such a purist. Such an attitude would relegate to nonentities such pieces as Ravel's great orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures, all those wonderfully effective highlight slices of operatic selections "without words", Leopold Stokowski's soul wrenching Bach Toccata and Fugue, Albinoni's famous Adagio, Pachelbel's famous Canon, Beethoven's own piano transcription of his Violin Concerto ... let alone all that wonderful guitar music (such as Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, the Sonata K. 213 by Domenico Scarlatti, and Bach's monumental suites, partitas and fugues "originally written for a lute". Alas ... so much great music in any sort of transcription must be a sorrowful bane to such a purist. I remain content I am no such purist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    What a dramatic overstatement.

    No, it doesn't follow that because someone prefers a male singer telling a man's story in one specific instance that they dislike transcriptions and other unconventional arrangements.

    I do know I would much prefer to be such a "purist" as SixFootScowl and I describe and comment upon above than to be one with a certain persnickety nature regarding comments made on an Internet Forum. Alas ....

  7. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    So you never bothered to take a good look at the words and you call someone out for being too literal?

    The first song reveals the most. The man is a wanderer, came to the town in spring, by May was courting a woman. The master it speaks of is her father. Similar to Die Schöne Müllerin, the narrator was an itinerant laborer who worked for the father and fell in love with the daughter.

    Now it's winter and his seasonal work is done, the union with the daughter fell apart, he's no longer welcome in her house, and feels the town is rejecting him, too.
    You’re misreading the poem. Here’s the Oxford Lieder translation

    I arrived a stranger,
    a stranger I depart.
    May blessed me
    with many a bouquet of flowers.
    The girl spoke of love,
    her mother even of marriage;
    now the world is so desolate,
    the path concealed beneath snow.
    I cannot choose the time
    for my journey;
    I must find my own way
    in this darkness.
    A shadow thrown by the moon
    is my companion;
    and on the white meadows
    I seek the tracks of deer.
    Why should I tarry longer
    and be driven out?
    Let stray dogs howl
    before their master’s house.
    Love delights in wandering –
    God made it so –
    from one to another.
    Beloved, good night!
    I will not disturb you as you dream,
    it would be a shame to spoil your rest.
    You shall not hear my footsteps;
    softly, softly the door is closed.
    As I pass I write
    ‘Good night’ on your gate,
    so that you might see
    that I thought of you.

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I think you are needlessly creating a rod for your own back with your extreme literal approach. In fact I hadn’t ever noticed that the voice of the poem is a travelling labourer - where does it say that?
    I certainly don't have an extreme literal approach (you seem to confusing me with Open Book) and don't need a rod.
    The Miller is a journeyman, we don't in fact know precisely about the person in Winterreise, although the analogy is there. But he is not a lesbian who got on the winter journey getting lost skiing in St. Moritz.

    He came travelling as a stranger to the town he leaves at the beginning and is rather poor, otherwise he would not sleep rough occasionally. But he cannot be a mere homeless drifter, otherwise he would not even have been considered as a marriage option.
    Of course I am now taking the text literally, it could be made up in lovesickness (the mother talked of marriage and now the girl is "a rich bride" could be his imagination). So he must have had sufficiently established in society and have had something to offer which must be some kind of skilled labor (in a wide sense, I guess he could be poor poet who worked as a small town schoolmaster). He need not be a travelling laborer, it could be that he just travelled to the girl's town for work and now is travelling away.

    I have nothing against abstracting from all these layers of meaning and framings. But to boldly claim that they are mostly or totally irrelevant and anyone who thinks otherwise is an extreme literalist square seems a bit much. My impression is that this framing/setting is particularly strong in some cycles (or some single songs) but not in others, therefore hardly anybody seems to think twice about which voice to prefer in Schumann's op.39 or Mahler's Rückert settings, but many do so in "Winterreise" or "Revelge" or "Frauenliebe und -leben".

    And there is of course key, pitch, tessitura etc. They are not irrelevant either (and one reason why I prefer tenor to the more frequent baritone). I find it a bit odd that we nowadays shudder at a baritone for Handel's Caesar (I admittedly do) but don't find a soprano in Winterreise at least a little unusual.

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  10. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    I certainly don't have an extreme literal approach (you seem to confusing me with Open Book) and don't need a rod.

    Ah, sorry!

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  11. #55
    Senior Member dissident's Avatar
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    Acceptable maybe, but not optimal.

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    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    As a playwright I've written scripts for women. I've read some of those scripts, their characters, aloud to directors and cast members. I once had a young actress, following such a reading, ask me: "How do you know so much about how a young woman thinks?"

    Had Winterreise been composed by a woman, and if that composer were to sing her song, how might it sound? Right? Wrong? Somewhere in between?

    I write this having just received an Amazon delivery, the CD of Joyce DiDonato (with accompanist Yannick Nezet-Seguin) performing Schubert's Winterreise. ERATO 0190295284145. The music was recorded on Dec. 15, 2019 at Carnegie Hall in New York City, but I see from a sticker pasted on the back side shrink wrap that this disc was "Made in Germany." Truly intercontinental music.

    B-aa0U.jpg

    B-aa0Uz.jpg

    I will now sign off from this Talk Classical Forum, carefully unpack the DiDonato disc from its shrink wrap cocoon, perhaps with some amount of trembling in my hands, load the silver disc into my trusty SONY CD deck, close the window shutters, and program for myself a rustic winter journey, here on this final full day of Summer in my listening room currently in eastern Pennsylvania.

    I suspect I will enjoy this journey, one I've taken many a time previously, though on different paths and with different companions.

    Joyce and Yannick, I stand ready to begin.

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  14. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    As a playwright I've written scripts for women. I've read some of those scripts, their characters, aloud to directors and cast members. I once had a young actress, following such a reading, ask me: "How do you know so much about how a young woman thinks?"

    Had Winterreise been composed by a woman, and if that composer were to sing her song, how might it sound? Right? Wrong? Somewhere in between?

    I write this having just received an Amazon delivery, the CD of Joyce DiDonato (with accompanist Yannick Nezet-Seguin) performing Schubert's Winterreise. ERATO 0190295284145. The music was recorded on Dec. 15, 2019 at Carnegie Hall in New York City, but I see from a sticker pasted on the back side shrink wrap that this disc was "Made in Germany." Truly intercontinental music.

    B-aa0U.jpg

    B-aa0Uz.jpg

    I will now sign off from this Talk Classical Forum, carefully unpack the DiDonato disc from its shrink wrap cocoon, perhaps with some amount of trembling in my hands, load the silver disc into my trusty SONY CD deck, close the window shutters, and program for myself a rustic winter journey, here on this final full day of Summer in my listening room currently in eastern Pennsylvania.

    I suspect I will enjoy this journey, one I've taken many a time previously, though on different paths and with different companions.

    Joyce and Yannick, I stand ready to begin.
    She takes each song like it's a big solo number in an opera. It's very studied: every vowel has been carefully coloured, the force of every consonant planned.

    She's not the only one to treat the cycle like this of course!

    Here's an antidote -- from the middle of WW2 -- a real winter's journey there! And you can hear it.

    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-21-2021 at 21:29.

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