nitahara gallery

A letter from Portugal No 47
Winter journey in high summer time in Algarve

@Time flies away this summer partly because our sons with their family visit us in turn. The main reason, however, is that I practice gWinterreise- Winter Journey-h almost every day. It is funny gwinter journeyh under this blue sky and strong sunshine in Algarve but I have a scecret plan to hold a small concert at which I sing this Winterreise. Real reason that time flies away is that I am busy with singing for this practice.

@I believe that you are familiar with the name Franz Schubert. He is well known by the songs he composed such as Heidenroslein, Wiegenlied and Symphony No.9 Unfinished. But very few people know that he was once taken in custody by the secret police for the suspicion of radical ideas.@

A portrait of Franz Schubert

When Franz was grown up and started his career with music, there were many who loved him, who admired his talent and who supported him in various ways. There arose a group called Schubertiade in which they enjoyed the music by Franz and talked on their lives. One of the fellow member of this group was named Johann Senn who had been watched by the police for his radical ideas. When Franz visited this Sennfs house, and talked with him, the undercover police came into the house and detained those who got together in the room. Franz was released in short order but Senn was detained for 14 months and was expelled from the country forever and was never able to be back to Vienna.

@As you know well, French revolution occurred in 1789 and Franz Schubert was born in 1797. He ceased his life of 31 years in 1829. This means that he lived an age when Europe turned from Middle Age to a modern society being French Revolution as its turning point. In France, citizens began to battle in order to hold power in their hands and conquered the gancient regimeh of Luis 16. At the other hand, Vienna where Willhelm Muller (the poet of Winterreise) and Franz himself played active role, was reigned by Habsburg family and was a part of Holy Roman Empire and was in the typical old society. Naturally government of Kaiser tried everything they could to keep the old social structure in order. In Vienna at that time, censorship on the publication was very strict. Criticism to the power structure and to Christianity was strongly banned. At the other hand, undercover police was very active to support the political structure. Franz Schubert lived in this changing society in which both traditional ball and creeping new age existed.


@gWinter journeyh has 24 songs and it is on a young manfs journey who cannot adapt himself to his community; in up-to-date words, gan alienated youngsterh. With a broken heart from love, he wanders about in dark and cold winter days. Another song book of Schubert gMullerinh has a story but in this gWinterreiseh, each song has an independent scene under the same subject. It is like 24 pictures on the same subject by the same artist.


@The first song gGute Nachth begins with the word gfremdh which means gforeign, indifferent or strangeh. I think that this first word expresses clearly this youngsterfs mental state and also his position in a society in which he lives.

@The 5th song is famous gLindenbaumh. He tells us, gIn joy and in sorrow, I was always drawn to this placeh. When he started on a journey however and passed by the tree at night, Lindenbaum whispered to him. gCome here to me, young fellow. Here, you will find your rest.h In short, the tree tempts him to hang himself on its bough and you will be excused from this painful winter journey. Sough of Lindenbaum sounded like that to him. The young fellow passed through the tree in haste and now has come far away from that spot. But he still hears the branchfs rustling inviting him to the rest. In old days, I believed that this song is filled with joy of the life but it was a big misunderstanding.

@In the 22nd song gMut-courage-h, we have a phrase gIf there is no God on earth, we are gods ourselves !h. I am very much surprised to find that this poem by Wilhelm Muller was published in that age when censor to the printed material was very strict. I am also surprised that Franz Schubert dared to compose a song on this stimulating and dangerous poem.

@In these songs, the young fellow travels in a dark and cold world. He tells us that the society which surrounds him, is dark and cold. Also deep in his mind, he feels dark and cold. This means that he feels and insists unbelief to the society; unreasonableness and absurdity of the life and ultimately the denial of God. He travels with despair and resignation to the life and gazing at his own death. From the viewpoint of the structure of music, we find some harmonies which we never find in the music before him. I can hardly believe that they composed these poems and songs some 200 years ago.

@I heard this song Winterreise broadcasted on radio late at night when I was a high school graduate waiting for another chance to sit for the entrance examination for a collage. I had no knowledge of these songs but by and by tears overflew out of my eyes and I could not stop it. Solitary and uneasy feeling of this song appealed tremendously to my heart who was young and pressed by coming second trial of the exam.

@Thank you for reading this story on Winterreise. At high summer with full sunshine in Algarve, I rehearse these songs imagining dark and cold winter in mind. I joined a chorus group when I was a high school boy and has continued many years singing in chorus. Naturally I can sing in harmony with others fairly well but to sing alone is something quite different. On top of that, Winterreise seems not the mountain which allows the attempt to climb up by a mere music lover. This is one of the highest mountain and a sacred place for the music lovers. I walked through my life with Winterreise and this is the first and the last attempt for me in my life. I hope that Franz would allow my attempt.

@Some day in 2012, I hope that I could see you at my concert of Winterreise (excerpt) in Tokyo. Wishing to realize it, I continue the rehearsal of winter journey in sunny high summer in Algarve.

Sunny high summer in Algarve

y@September 2011, Seiji@z