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Estonia Pianos
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I have a CD of Winterreise (with Thomas Quasthoff and Charles Spencer) that I listen to and enjoy. Sure, some folks might find it depressing, but for some reason I like minor keys. Anyway, it occurred to me that someday I might want to both play it and sing it, not as a performance, just for my own enjoyment, even though I don't know German at all, and my playing and singing abilities are mediocre. I am just curious to know if anyone on this forum has done this.

In the last year, I acquired a small-ish and free digital piano, and more recently I bought a printed copy of the music. I've found that I can play some of the accompaniments well enough for my liking, but haven't attempted adding the vocal part. Some of the songs are problematic because my keyboard doesn't have 88 keys.

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I have played Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin, but left the vocal part for a baritone singer. I think that both playing and singing will be very difficult. I also think that knowing German language is an advantage even for the pianist because this music requires deep understanding of the story told.

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Originally Posted by c++
I have a CD of Winterreise (with Thomas Quasthoff and Charles Spencer) that I listen to and enjoy. Sure, some folks might find it depressing, but for some reason I like minor keys. Anyway, it occurred to me that someday I might want to both play it and sing it, not as a performance, just for my own enjoyment, even though I don't know German at all, and my playing and singing abilities are mediocre. I am just curious to know if anyone on this forum has done this.
I sing Schubert (and Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Mendelssohn) Lieder quite often, in my gravelly, ancient baritone, while accompanying myself on the piano. As for my (non-existent) German, let's just say no native German speaker would have been able to understand a word of my singing.......

Of course, no-one ever hears my "performances" except for my cat (but I don't have a cat, so I'm OK).

And why not? Franz probably sang and accompanied himself in his Schubertiade if no friendly singer was willing....

BTW, I also sometimes do the same for folk and pop songs, though of course they are much easier as I can improvise the accompaniment, making them as simple or as elaborate as I like.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by c++
I have a CD of Winterreise (with Thomas Quasthoff and Charles Spencer) that I listen to and enjoy. Sure, some folks might find it depressing, but for some reason I like minor keys. Anyway, it occurred to me that someday I might want to both play it and sing it, not as a performance, just for my own enjoyment, even though I don't know German at all, and my playing and singing abilities are mediocre. I am just curious to know if anyone on this forum has done this.
. . . .

When I started to take singing lessons, I wanted to use Winterreise as practice material. I learned two things:

. . . (a) it's _hard_ to sing -- much harder than it sounds,
. . . . . when a good classical singer does it.

. . . (b) my teacher was much more comfortable teaching and playing jazz,
. . . . . than she was doing Schubert. The piano part isn't virtuoso
. . . . . materical, but it isn't easy.

I find it very hard to play, and sing, at the same time. If I think about my playing, my breathing goes wonky; if I think about my breathing and pronunciation, my playing goes wonky.

It's a good goal, but IMHO you'd be better off taking some singing lessons, and some piano lessons, and looking at it again in a year.

You can try it out, but _don't_ get discouraged if you find it impossible:

. . . it's not "beginner material", it's a challenge for skilled musicians.


. Charles
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Thank you for your comments. It is probably harder than it might seem. Some of the songs are easier than others, so maybe I'll start with one of the easier ones. I will surely need to practice more, as it's been a long time since I have played regularly.

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This was the first Schubert song I ever accompanied myself singing (at sight): the vocal line is simple & straightforward (and it's strophic), and the accompaniment can easily be sight-read while sight-singing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fngyZ6HiaSk


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I doubt that many could do justice to both playing and singing "Winterreise." Each part requires not only artistry of the highest professional standards but total concentration to provide a convincing performance.

Nothing, however, prevents anyone from doing this either in the privacy of their own home or (folly!) in public.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 12/14/20 08:44 PM.

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We know that Schubert and Brahms often performed their songs with their own voice for friends- Schubert sang his own Winterreise for the first time, before his dear friend the singer Johann Michael Vogl performed it. Joseph von Spaun, a close friend of Schubert, shares the following in his memoirs:
"From the time of the composition, Schubert became gloomier in the course of time and appeared to be ailing. In answer to my question of what has come over him, he only said, 'Well, you will soon hear and understand it.' One day he said to me, 'Come to Schober today. I will sing a cycle of frightful lieder for you. I am eager to see what you think of them. They have affected me more deeply than any other lieder hitherto.' Then, in a moved voice he sang through the entire Winterreise for us. We were com­pletely flabbergasted by the gloomy atmosphere of these lieder, and Schober said that only one lied, The Lime Tree (der Lindenbaum), appealed to him. At that, Schubert said only, 'I like these lieder more than any others, and you will also come to like them'; and he was right. We were soon enthusiastic about the im­pression made by the melancholy lieder which Vogl performed masterfully. There are, indeed, no Ger­man lieder which are more beautiful, and they were essentially his swan song. From then on, he was ailing."

At vocal accompaniment/ collaborative piano programs in many conservatories, you are required to play and sing simultaneously for part of the audition, and it's a skill you practice often for opera coaching. I am personally against sight-singing a foreign language if one has not mastered the text, because then one turns an expressive song, a poem in music, into beautiful sounds, which takes away all of its meaning. Earlier musicians and audiences were much less purist than nowadays, and it was common to perform German Lieder in English versions in the US and in England and to translate operas; while it doesn't work for all music or all languages (e.g. French art song), understanding and conveying understanding was more important than the elitism of singing in German, especially if one can't speak a word of it. I would sight-read chamber music and solo music, but even as a student in a Lied program I would never sight-read a Lied unless I have to, not before learning the poem as a poem, preferably from memory.


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
Arthur Schnabel

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Originally Posted by Ainar
I am personally against sight-singing a foreign language if one has not mastered the text, because then one turns an expressive song, a poem in music, into beautiful sounds, which takes away all of its meaning.
I don't think one should set such exalted standards. We are only singing for our own satisfaction and enjoyment in the privacy of our homes, not to audition for a Lieder competition.

If you wanted to do it properly, you'd have spent years on vocal training, and then master languages, and then Lieder, and that's assuming you actually have a decent voice. Whereas we here are mere lowly (but trained) pianists, getting enjoyment out of singing music we like.......because we can.

I take solace from the fact that Schubert was a chorister in the Wiener Sängerknaben, and I too was a chorister in my school chapel choir (which has won some national & international school choral competitions over the years)......but I've never had singing lessons smirk .


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c++, studying Winterreise will be an intensely rewarding experience. I strongly encourage you.

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Originally Posted by Ainar
We know that Schubert and Brahms often performed their songs with their own voice for friends- Schubert sang his own Winterreise for the first time, before his dear friend the singer Johann Michael Vogl performed it. Joseph von Spaun, a close friend of Schubert, shares the following in his memoirs:
"From the time of the composition, Schubert became gloomier in the course of time and appeared to be ailing. In answer to my question of what has come over him, he only said, 'Well, you will soon hear and understand it.' One day he said to me, 'Come to Schober today. I will sing a cycle of frightful lieder for you. I am eager to see what you think of them. They have affected me more deeply than any other lieder hitherto.' Then, in a moved voice he sang through the entire Winterreise for us. We were com­pletely flabbergasted by the gloomy atmosphere of these lieder, and Schober said that only one lied, The Lime Tree (der Lindenbaum), appealed to him. At that, Schubert said only, 'I like these lieder more than any others, and you will also come to like them'; and he was right. We were soon enthusiastic about the im­pression made by the melancholy lieder which Vogl performed masterfully. There are, indeed, no Ger­man lieder which are more beautiful, and they were essentially his swan song. From then on, he was ailing."

At vocal accompaniment/ collaborative piano programs in many conservatories, you are required to play and sing simultaneously for part of the audition, and it's a skill you practice often for opera coaching. I am personally against sight-singing a foreign language if one has not mastered the text, because then one turns an expressive song, a poem in music, into beautiful sounds, which takes away all of its meaning. Earlier musicians and audiences were much less purist than nowadays, and it was common to perform German Lieder in English versions in the US and in England and to translate operas; while it doesn't work for all music or all languages (e.g. French art song), understanding and conveying understanding was more important than the elitism of singing in German, especially if one can't speak a word of it. I would sight-read chamber music and solo music, but even as a student in a Lied program I would never sight-read a Lied unless I have to, not before learning the poem as a poem, preferably from memory.

I learned a lot about lieder and Winterreise. Wonderful!

Thank-you

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Originally Posted by David-G
c++, studying Winterreise will be an intensely rewarding experience. I strongly encourage you.

Thank you for the encouragement. smile

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Originally Posted by c++
Originally Posted by David-G
c++, studying Winterreise will be an intensely rewarding experience. I strongly encourage you.

Thank you for the encouragement. smile

Yes, immensely rewarding. I took an eight-week course (meeting only on weekends, admittedly, but on an average of four hours per day each day of the weekend) on an in-depth study of Winterreise with a number of performers at the conclusion of which two recitals of the cycle were given. As there were fewer pianists than singers in the group, each pianist performed two or three of the songs with different singers in each of the two recitals.

It was an experience that embraced the genesis of the work, the study of the text and detailed performance master-classes each weekend. The masterclasses were given by a professional singer and a professional pianist/teacher who guided us through the course and who critiqued our performances in preparation for the final public recitals.

In case you may be interested, here are the details of the course: https://thewinterreiseproject.ca/

I repeat: an immensely rewarding and an unforgettable experience!

Regards,


BruceD
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