One Singer’s ‘Winter Journey’ To Obsession

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We’ll explore Franz Schubert’s Winterreise, or Winter Journey – the late great, strange song cycle with tenor Ian Bostridge. Plus: a fresh look at contemporary German pop music.

Tenor and author Ian Bostridge. (Courtesy The Artist)
Tenor and author Ian Bostridge. (Courtesy the Artist)

The great composer Franz Schubert died in Vienna in 1828.  He was just 31 years old.  He was reading James Fenimore Cooper - "The Last of the Mohicans" - in his last weeks of struggle.  And dreaming of a lonely walk in very German woods.  Wrapping up one of the greatest song cycles – German lieder – ever written.  He called it "Winter Journey."  A cold, desolate sojourn toward modernity.  Stuffed with sex, death, longing, mystery.  This hour, On Point:  One man’s great obsession with Franz Schubert’s "Winter Journey."
-- Tom Ashbrook


Ian Bostridge, acclaimed tenor. Author of the new book, "Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy Of An Obsession." (@ianbostridge)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Economist: Wintry passions — "Ian Bostridge, one of Britain’s foremost tenors, has performed 'Winterreise' more than 100 times. He knows every last nuance of the work and has given it a great deal of thought. His beautifully produced book offers many new insights that will inform the enjoyment of both old admirers and newcomers to the music. Each of the songs has a chapter devoted to it, which at first sounds like a device that might quickly pall; but, like Scheherazade in '1001 Nights', Mr Bostridge is a good storyteller and keeps the reader in constant suspense."

Boston Globe: In a new book, Bostridge explores Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ — "Before becoming a professional singer in the mid-1990s, Ian Bostridge was on track for a distinguished academic career. He’d studied history and philosophy at Cambridge and Oxford, earning a Ph.D. for a dissertation about witchcraft in the 17th and 18th centuries. That background has often caused Bostridge to be tagged as an intellectual or overly cerebral singer. The label, though, makes little sense in the context of the highly expressive performances he creates on stage and in recordings."

The Independent: Kindred spirits on a poetic quest — "Taking each song as a chapter and springboard, he explores the context and times Müller and Schubert were working in, unearthing remarkable details along the way, from a cultural history of tears, to early photographs of snowflakes, the last days of charcoal-burning as a profession, to 19th-century understanding of natural phenomena such as Ignis fatuus (will-o'-the-wisp) and "mock suns", the linden tree in German lore, to Goethe on glaciers."

Contemporary German Pop Music

Ralf von Appen, music critic and board member of the German Society for Popular Music Studies.

Read An Excerpt Of "Schubert's Winter Journey" By Ian Bostridge

This program aired on February 2, 2015.


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