Ian Bostridge’s Art of Song: “Winterreise”

IanBostridge_ Sim Canetty-Clarke

3:00 pm • Sunday, April 19th 2015
Union College Memorial Chapel • Schenectady, NY

As part of an eight-date recital tour of the United State, the renowned British tenor Ian Bostridge returns to the Union College Concert Series on Sunday afternoon. The uniquely suited vocal master is joined by pianist Wenwen Du to perform Schubert’s celebrated Winterreise cycle.

Franz Schubert’s Winterreise is an extended song cycle written for voice and piano. It’s the second of Schubert’s two great song cycles using Wilhelm Müller’s poetry, the first being Die schöne Müllerin. While written for the tenor voice, Winterreise is suited for other vocal ranges and is frequently performed so—and was acceptable to Schubert as he apparently set the precedent himself.

Schubert composed the 24-song cycle Winterreise (1828) while he was suffering from the advanced stage of syphilis, which is said to be the cause of his ill-fated young death, and his music expresses the darkness and angst of what he, no doubt, was experiencing.

For many Winterreise is considered to be one of the single greatest pieces of music in the history of Lieder. And Ian Bostridge has made a career of embracing the art song and the art of song, in particular Winterreise. A hallmark of his repertoire, he has performed the cycle more than a 100 times, has made a noted recording of it complete with video with pianist Julius Drake (on Warner Classics), and most recently released a book about it … the title of which perhaps relates the role of this Schubert work in Bostridge’s own life, “Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession.”

“Schubert is the greatest songwriter of all time; the composer who made what had been a minor genre into one of the lynchpins of Western classical music and one of its deepest forms of expression,” says Bostridge. “And it was in his three song cycles, composed in the last eight years of his life – Die schöne Müllerin, Winterreise and Schwanengesang – that he reached furthest and deepest, conjuring whole new worlds out of the barest means: an expressionist, an absurdist, an existentialist avant la lettre.” –Ian Bostridge

Now before we encourage you to go to his performance simply because Ian Bostridge’s obsession has seemingly made him “the” prolific, authoritative master; one might want to be aware that when he was in the United States earlier this year, his performance and subsequent review by Anne Midgette in The Washington Post caused a bit of a stir and sent social media in a twitter.

Ian Bostridge is not a classical singer. Yes, he’s a tenor, and what he does is vocal performance, and it’s strikingly compelling. But classical singers produce sound in a certain way, with a certain kind of vocal support and certain accepted wisdoms about sound and line and diction. Bostridge, by contrast, comes at singing from entirely his own direction and arrives at his own unique conclusions and results.”Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Anne Midgette further insinuates the inappropriateness of Bostridge’s tenor range for the work, and she is not the first. Perhaps, this points to the writing itself and why other voice parts have also had many successful performances of the song cycle.

Regardless, we ask that you go take in Mr. Bostridge’s performance with open mind and decide if what he does is to your own liking and “standards.” Rest assured, you will have an intriguing afternoon especially since you can also revel in the insightful conversation that will take place between Bostridge and Fred Child—host of American Public Media’s Performance Today and PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center national broadcasts. Childs will join Bostridge on stage after the tenor’s performance to discuss the song cycle and Bostridge’s book. That is reason enough to attend.

Of interest:

  • An interview with Ian Bostridge via Radio Open Source with host Christopher Lydon


Upcoming Events

  • Classics on Hudson: Violinist Yevgeny Kutik with Pianist Dina Vainshtein / Bloch, Franck, Rubinstein, Prokofiev and Eshpai
  • Hudson Opera House, Hudson, NY
    Saturday, April 18th 2015 at 7:00 pm

  • Albany Symphony Orchestra with Time for Three: Copland, Higdon, Dvořák
  • Palace Theater, Albany, NY
    Saturday, April 18th 2015 at 7:30 pm

  • Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society: Enso String Quartet with violist Michael Tree and cellist Peter Wiley
  • The Church of the Messiah, Rhinebeck, NY
    Sunday, April 19th 2015 at 3:00 pm

  • Ulster Chamber Music Series: Paul Winter and Prana
  • Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kingston, NY
    Sunday, April 19th 2015 at 3:00 pm

  • Union College Concerts: tenor Ian Bostridge with Wenwen Du, piano / Schubert
  • Union College Memorial Chapel, Schenectady, NY
    Sunday, April 19th 2015 at 3:00 pm

  • “WMHT Live!”: Empire State Youth Orchestra / Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and more
  • WMHT-FM (Radio Broadcasts), Troy (NY)
    Sunday, April 19th 2015 at 6:00 pm

  • WMHT “No Ticket Required”: violinist Tessa Lark and pianist Ellen Hwangbo perform Bartók
  • WMHT-FM (Radio Broadcasts), Troy (NY)
    Friday, April 24th 2015 at 1:00 pm

  • Frobenius Organ Spring Concert: Organ and Choral Works by Alfred Fedak
  • Saratoga United Methodist Church, Saratoga Springs
    Friday, April 24th 2015 at 7:00 pm

  • The Met’s “Live in HD”: Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana / Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci—New Production
  • Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC), Kingston (NY)
    Saturday, April 25th 2015 at 12:30 pm

  • The Met’s “Live in HD”: Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana / Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci—New Production
  • Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid, NY
    Saturday, April 25th 2015 at 12:30 pm

  • The Met’s “Live in HD”: Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana / Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci—New Production
  • Time & Space Limited*, Hudson, NY
    Saturday, April 25th 2015 at 12:30 pm

  • The Met’s “Live in HD”: Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana / Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci—New Production
  • Regal Crossgates Stadium 18, Albany, NY
    Saturday, April 25th 2015 at 12:30 pm

  • Battenkill Chorale: Mozart, Brahms, Copland, Whitacre, Lauridsen and More
  • Immaculate Conception Church, Hoosick Falls, NY
    Saturday, April 25th 2015 at 8:00 pm

  • de Blasiis Chamber Music Series: Ensemble Vivant
  • Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY
    Sunday, April 26th 2015 at 2:00 pm

  • Concerts in the Village: Elgar, Bridge, Britten, Vaughan Williams and Holst
  • Jack Shainman Gallery – The School, Kinderhook, NY
    Sunday, April 26th 2015 at 3:00 pm