Much has already been written and said about Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise (A Winter Journey)”. It is well known to the public and countless recordings of it exist. Originally written by the politically very committed poet and social critic Wilhelm Müller, Schubert took his poems, rearranged and reinterpreted them, thus turning them into this timeless cycle that still captivates us today.
Michael Gees described “Winterreise” as “24 states of the soul”. On the surface it is a journey through cold and inhospitable winter landscapes, but inwardly one through extreme emotional contrasts, unhappy love, melancholy, daydreams, nocturnal trepidation – sensations that escalate into the manic or even the paranoid. In the end, it remains a search. The traveler through winter is a person seeking for the origin of things to their destination, but most importantly he is looking for himself. Many scholars and artists offer very diverse interpretations, from a romantic love story, a retrospective on one’s own life, political dissidence to the processing of one’s own sexual identity. However, the question of the authors’ intention remains unanswered and each interprets a very individual approach to the “Winterreise”. Similarly, every recording and every song recital is a mental snapshot.
Ours was no exception. We had heard about each other through mutual acquaintances until we – Diego, a Brazilian pianist living in the USA, and Richard, a German tenor – met by chance on a Swiss regional train on 10th of June 2016 and undertook a twenty-minute journey together before our paths parted again. In this short time, we decided that this train trip should be the beginning of a journey together, and we set our minds firmly on performing the “Winterreise” together at some point. Living on two different continents, a busy concert and travel schedule and, last but not least, the pandemic did not make things easy, but – against all odds and after many attempts, trials, failures and new attempts – we can now present you with a snapshot of our joint “Winterreise” and would like to invite you to join us on this journey.
This journey would not have come about had it not been for the help and support of many people: Jakob Händel, the best sound engineer one could wish for, always in a good mood and open-minded; the Boecker family, who trustingly provided us with a recording location and instrument at short notice at beautiful Gut Bannacker; Kilian Volz and Martina Brendt, our spontaneous angels who came to the rescue when the instrument needed tuning; Amarillo College; as well as Jenny Inzerillo from High Plains Public Radio, Dr. Nate Caetano, Mark Jost, Stephanie Knauer, Marc Lippuner and Christian Weiherer, who believed in us and encouraged us to pursue this project. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
Richard Resch and Diego Caetano
The last year in Franz Schubert’s life has something prodigious. A young man who had but recently turned 30, around whom Death was closing his web quickly. He might have perceived that his time was counted – or, maybe, he could not imagine such a fate – but certainly the quantity and quality of the masterpieces he produced during his short life, and within his last year in particular is something hard to believe.
Among works of absolute beauty and imposing duration, such as the last three Piano Sonatas (to name but one example), Winterreise would suffice, alone, in establishing Schubert’s status as that of one of the greatest composers of all times.
Winterreise is a cycle of twenty-four Lieder by Wilhelm Müller. Schubert, of course, was and is the undisputed master of the Lieder genre and in particular of the cycle of Lieder. He had written countless examples of this genre, many of which, sadly, are lost; he had begun as a teenager, authoring one of the absolute masterpieces of the genre, Erlkönig, at eighteen. Winterreise, as a cycle, came after Die schöne Müllerin (1823), on lyrics by the same Müller who authored the verses for Winterreise (1828); Schwanengesang is a cycle in a different fashion, as it collects Lieder whose lyrics were authored by different poets and are unrelated in a unified narrative.
In Winterreise, Schubert’s art is at is highest. Already as a boy he had demonstrated his absolute mastery of the duet between voice and piano. He had explored all varieties of Lieder in terms of form (strophic or durchkomponiert, or hybrid…) and investigated thoroughly the delicate balance between the two protagonists. The voice is never “just” a voice; at the most basic level, it bespeaks the singer/character’s full humanity, and embodies their experience of life in infinite shades and nuances of mood, emotions and feelings. The piano is never “just” accompaniment. Yes, occasionally it can limit itself to a few chords or to simple formulaic patterns, but in the overwhelming majority of the cases it assumes a variety of roles. At times the piano is to the voice what scenes and background are to an actor, i.e. the indispensable frame for the individual in his or her context. It may be a partner, with the piano’s melodic lines intertwining with those actually sung by the singer. It may be an orchestra, with endless timbral solutions which are reminiscent of a symphonist’s palette. It may be the landscape surrounding the individual, with an inexhaustible fantasy of imitative devices and solutions, ranging from the most immediately understandable images to the most refined symbols. It may be simply what it is, i.e. Schubert’s favourite instrument, the recipient of his most intimate secrets, the instrument which is constantly ready to respond to its performer’s fingers, even when Schubert was improvising the piano part under a melodic skeleton.
We find virtually all this in Winterreise, together with the summa of Schubert’s compositional art and of his tortured philosophy of life. Schubert might have known or perceived that he was going to die within the year, but certainly, in his most profound moments (which neither do occur everywhere in his Lieder output, nor are limited to it), his outlook on life was not rosy. He was not always inspired by anguish and sadness either; fun, joie de vivre, and above all dance-rhythms abound everywhere in his oeuvre. Schubert’s most typical trait, however, is nostalgia at its purest. Correctly, we should speak of Sehnsucht, the heart-rending feeling which was, in a manner of speaking, his religion. Schubert was not a typical Catholic; his letters reveal an ambivalent attitude toward religion, and a general distrust as concerns Church establishment. Still, in most of his works (and from the first to the last in Winterreise) there is a deeply “religious” attitude. His works embody a soul which is, as the early Christian authors liked to put it, “capax infiniti”, i.e. capable for the infinite, predisposed for a dimension which vastly transcends that of a mere creature. If a finite and limited creature, as a human being is, is open to, and capable of, something infinite, however, what happens if that human being does not find a satisfactory answer to his thirst for the infinite? A void, an emptiness results from this; an emptiness and a void which are as large as the “piece” which is missing – they are infinite, and nothing less than the infinite can fill them. All other solutions leave the human spirit unfulfilled, thirsting. Frequently this lack becomes painful and acutely piercing; it is rarely something which leaves alone a soul feeling it. Once this desire for the infinite has been felt once, it will never abandon a person. And it will constitute a perennial tension, a constant polarity which attracts unceasingly and fatally, but also hopelessly, unless one finds an answer which is entirely fulfilling. This tension may also be extremely fruitful, however, and fecund; as is the case with Schubert, whose entire oeuvre is pervaded by it and inspired, enlivened and animated by it.
Winterreise is, therefore, much more than about unrequited love. Yes, there is a protagonist who silently leaves his beloved’s roof in the opening song, Gute Nacht (“Good Night”); there is a young man who had dreamt a love dream and finds it impossible to realize. But we are given no portrait of the object of his love; what remains, from the very beginning, is already the skeleton of their erstwhile love. It is a love already turned into memory – a fond, sad and touching memory, but something already belonging to the past. The piano’s accompaniment, in Gute Nacht, is very different from that of Das Wandern at the beginning of Die schöne Müllerin; it does not display the usual stereotypes of walking, which can be more or less lively and happy, but still represent a directional movement, something purposeful and self-fulfilling. Here the piano plays repeated chords, frequently on a harmonic pedal. It is as if the protagonist’s very movement, his very steps, were frozen already. Not only is his love already dead; in a manner of speaking, even his Wandern, his wandering, is already doomed to failure. He is already the prisoner of his very steps, memories and dreams.
Thus, the leaves we see are “frozen leaves”; an icy mantle of snow covers everything and is beautifully mirrored by Schubert’s music. Snow has nothing Christmassy here; it is a patina of ice, which destroys all colours and the living beings’ actual shapes, unifying them into an undifferentiated whiteness which embraces the warmth of life and gradually devours it.
Certainly, there are moments of liveliness, even of hope; Schubert cheerfully depicts, for instance, the stagecoach of the postman and his horn in Die Post, a delightful miniature bright with a jumpy compound rhythm and the joyful simplicity of a shiny major mode. But the tune of the postman’s horn creates a fleeting and doomed joy; a joy bound to the possibility of receiving news from the beloved, but this possibility has been already ruled out.
There is warmth, unforgettably depicted in music by Schubert in Täuschung; but the warm home awaiting the wanderer is the cemetery where his steps will lead him, and the deceivingly, tantalizing and enticing lights he sees, evocative of a welcoming home and of its inhabitants, are just those of the will’-o’-the-wisps.
There is tenderness, deep and touching; the tenderness, seemingly, of a mother. But it is a very dangerous kind of mother. Der Lindenbaum is a sweet lullaby, “sung” by the branches and leaves of a linden tree, on whose bark the erstwhile lovers had carved their initials. But how can a linden tree rock a person? The answer is disquieting, troubling and anguished, though formally implicit: the rest offered by the tree is that of death, and its branches will rock him who takes his life by hanging himself on them.
What remains, then? Beyond love, or the ghost of it, and nostalgia, that all-powerful drive leading the protagonist’s road, all that remains is the road itself, and his walking on it. The protagonist is no more “just” a young man whose love story has ended. He has been turned into The Wanderer, that iconic figure of Romanticism. The Wanderer experiences what a poem set to music by Schubert himself had stated: “Happiness is where you are not”. The Wanderer is in constant quest of the infinite, but doomed never to reach it. But he cannot simply discard this quest and his path; wandering has become so inextricably bound to his personality that, should he stop, his very identity would dissolve. The Wanderer is not “a person who walks”, but one for whom wandering and being coincide.
Still, the Wanderer’s road seemingly has a direction, albeit one whose destination is by definition unreachable (infinity). The Leiermann, instead, has a hurdy-gurdy and plays on it. The hurdy-gurdy is played with circular movements; it transforms the linearity of the road into the circularity of Nietzsche’s eternal return, well before it was formulated by the philosopher. The Leiermann is an old beggar; the monotonous and hypnotic “music” of his instrument is stupendously evoked by Schubert’s adoption of a totally naked writing, where nothing but the all-important is left. The Leiermann is despised by all (and thus is a Christ-like figure); the dogs bark against him, he is barefoot in the snow, his plate is empty. In spite of all this, the protagonist wishes to associate his own life with that of the old man. “Will you accompany my songs by your hurdy-gurdy?”.
In the end, they are not even two people; they are just the same person in two distinct moments of his life – two moments which might be chronologically much closer than one thinks. The Leiermann is the young man’s future; youthful vivacity is what at times appears in Winterreise but is highly deceptive. We are led to believe that a single winter, lived with the Leiermann, will turn the young into an old man, and, in so doing, will eternalize his being in the frozenness of a perpetual wandering that is more static than walking itself. And the piano, left alone, stutters its last notes in the silence engulfing them.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2023
Brazilian pianist Diego Caetano was considered by the Italian newspaper La Stampa "a gifted pianist with a brilliant technique and musicality." He has been performing widely as soloist and chamber musician throughout the USA, Brazil, Chile, Europe, Asia, and Africa, including performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, Yokohama's Philia Hall, Lisbon's Palácio da Foz, Rio de Janeiro's Sala Cecília Meireles, and London's Royal Albert Hall.
He has worked with conductors such as Michael Palmer, Paul Hostetter, Neil Thomson, Rodrigo de Carvalho, Guilherme Bernstein, Joaquim Jayme, Daniel Guedes, and others. He has been featured in recitals and concerto appearances at the Grand Teton Music Festival, Louisiana International Piano Series, Durango's Conservatory Music of the Mountains, Bangkok's Asia Pacific Saxophone Academy, and Brasília's International Music Festival. An advocate for contemporary music, he has premiered works by composers Robert Spillman, Anne Guzzo, Marlos Nobre, Roger Goeb, and Guilherme Bernstein.
Caetano has frequently served as a masterclass clinician and competition adjudicator in various universities and conservatories around the globe and has presented at various national and international conferences about pedagogical works by Brazilian composers, effective practicing techniques, and performance anxiety. His students have received prizes at national and international piano competitions. He is a member of Duo Lispector with Russian violinist Evgeny Zvonnikov and a member of Resch - Caetano Duo with German tenor Richard Resch.
Dr. Caetano received the top prizes in more than fifty national and international piano competitions, including Concorso Internazionale per Giovani Musicisti “Città di Massa” (2021), Bonn Prize International Music Competition (2020), Bucharest Pro Piano International Piano Competition (2018), London's Grand Prix Virtuoso (2016), Carnegie Hall Debut International Concerto Competition (2014), MTNA Young Artist - Steinway & Sons (2011), "Arnaldo Estrella" Piano Competition (2008), and many more. He has also won special awards including Best Interpreter of Brazilian Composers, Best Interpreter of Spanish Composers, and Prix d'Excellence in Performance.
Dr. Caetano graduated with a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master of Music degree from the University of Wyoming, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Universidade Federal de Goiás (Brazil). Caetano has studied under the guidance of Dr. David Korevaar, Bob Spillman, Dr. Theresa Bogard, Dr. Maria Helena Jayme, and Lílian Carneiro de Mendonça. Dr. Caetano also studied with Dr. Nadezhda Eysmont at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, in Russia.
Diego Caetano maintains an active schedule as an educator. He was the founder and the Artistic Director of Amarillo College Piano Series from 2016 -2020. He is the co-founder and the Director of Keyboard Studies at Ávila International Music Festival in Ávila (Spain) and is the President of the World Piano Teachers Association - Texas Chapter. He has held previous faculty positions at Casper College and Amarillo College.
Dr. Caetano is a Professor of Piano at Sam Houston State University, and a Shigeru Kawai Artist.
Richard Resch received his first musical training with the Regensburg Cathedral Boys Choir, „Regensburger Domspatzen“. His vocal studies took him to the Leopold Mozart Zentrum at the University of Augsburg and at the Schola Cantorum Basiliens, where he studied with Agnes Habereder, Hans-Joachim Beyer, Edda Sevenich and Dominik Wortig, among others, as well as with Evelyn Tubb and Anthony Rooley. Richard Resch complemented his training with Brigitte Fassbaender, Margreet Honig, Regina Resnik, Irvin Gage, Rudolf Jansen, Rudolf Piernay, Udo Reinemann, Wolfram Rieger and Gerd Türk, among others. He has won prizes at international singing competitions such as the "Concorso Internazionale Per Cantanti 'Toti dal Monte'" in Treviso, the international opera competition "Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg" and the international singing competition "Gut Immling". The City of Augsburg honoured him with its „Kunstförderpreis“.
Richard Resch has given guest performances at Opera Houses such as Augsburg, Braunschweig, Bregenz, Opera National de Bordeaux and Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and has worked with conductors such as Howard Arman, Francesco Corti, Christoph Eschenbach, Ton Koopman, Sigiswald Kuijken, Andrea Marcon, Marc Minkowski, Andrew Parrott, Philippe Pierlot, Christophe Rousset, Helmuth Rilling, Johanna Soller, Andreas Spering, Jos van Veldhoven and Peter Whelan.
Numerous concerts and radio broadcasts have taken him all over Europe, as well as to Asia and North and South America, for example to the Rheingau Musikfestival, the Salzburger Mozartwoche or the Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence.
Recently, Carpe Diem Records released his solo debut CD "Wenn ich nur Dich hab" with masterpieces of northern German baroque music.
Franz Schubert: (b Vienna, 31 Jan 1797; d Vienna, 19 Nov 1828). Austrian composer. The only canonic Viennese composer native to Vienna, he made seminal contributions in the areas of orchestral music, chamber music, piano music and, most especially, the German lied. The richness and subtlety of his melodic and harmonic language, the originality of his accompaniments, his elevation of marginal genres and the enigmatic nature of his uneventful life have invited a wide range of readings of both man and music that remain among the most hotly debated in musical circles.