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Singing in Solitude--a Review of a Song Cycle Performed at Saint Ambrose

This last week, I recently went to the performance of the 24 song cycle called Winterreise (Pronounced Vinter eisa) by Composer Franz Schubert. It was performed by Nathan Windt (Baritone) and Marian Lee (Piano) with still life photos playing behind them provided by Randy Richmond and an SAU art professor. I can say it was well worth going. The free event started with a piece called Gute Nacht (Good Night) and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the cycle. The Song explains how a man who had been chasing after a maiden finds she has married someone else, so he leaves society and journeys out into the world. The songs following the first piece tell us the emotional state of the man and the sights and experiences he has on this journey of his. All of the songs have a very somber feel to them that helps connect the listener to the loneliness that the songs are trying to evoke. The only real “happy” song is called Frühlingstraum (Dream of Spring). Even then, the happiness is short-lived with the wanderer waking to the cold and loneliness once more.

On top of that, Nathan, the singer, performs these pieces very well selling the weight of loneliness that this wanderer feels. Nathan’s baritone range does a great job of fitting a younger man growing into himself over the course of his journey. The pianist, Marian Lee, also performed excellently. Setting the mood by playing a little bit before Nathan began singing and continuing to support him as the songs would continue.

Another part of the whole performance that really elevated it was the still-life pictures shown behind the two performers. The images were all really simple shots of twigs or snow and frozen rivers, but it helps to connect us to the story that is being told by these two performers and was definitely one of my favorite things about the cycle. Despite the fact that the full cycle included 24 songs, it never felt too long. The concert never got boring because the story would progress more and more. I also like where the story leaves off—not really answering what happens to the wanderer or what his journey has done to him. It leaves a lot of interpretation of the piece to the audience which I really prefer. Overall, the whole experience was very enjoyable, and I’m excited to see what the Saint Ambrose music department will produce next.

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