Take me to your Lieder

I just wanted to celebrate and bid auf Wiederhören to the life of one of the paragons of our age, truly one of the most supremely gifted vocalists and discriminating and insightful musicians. It was the lieder form that he so magisterially exhumed and polished and perfected before our ears, Schubert principally of course, but Wolf and Schoek too, lesser known names but now regularly performed thanks to him.

Many people when they first listen to Winterreise for example, or the better known of all Schubert’s lieder, The Trout, or Der Erlkönig feel – despite the simply unprecedented tunefulness and hummable melodic flowering – that they can’t “relate” to this genre of lilting folk songs, sung by an operatic tenor baritone hybrid, reciting poems about lonely romantic travelling and being impressed by lime trees and melting snow, which seems so buttoned up and concert-hall and swanky while pretending to be the wild woodnotes of a free romantic artist who is making a musical journey of his life. We all know autumn reminds us of decay and winter of frozen stasis and spring of promise. What could that syphilitic old (well young in fact) speccie Schubert bring to the party that might make us feel anything new?

Try it, try it do

Oh. Oh you wait. You’ll hate it at first perhaps. But leave it on. Leave it on over the next few days and suddenly, it will steal into you and never leave you. And if you never thank me for anything ever again. Thank me for that. There is a great line by Philip Larkin (well of course there is, there is almost nothing but great lines by him) – but one of my favourite is to a musical hero of his, the Jazz clarinettist and saxophonist, Sidney Bechet:

“Oh play that thing!” he cries, and then adds this, on which I and (I should guess no one alive could improve)

On me your sounds falls as they say love should Like an enormous yes.

I’ll grant you, Wigmore Hall and the QE Hall and the Festival and all the others, much as I love them, have work to do before they’ll get people in to venues that most will instantly respond to as stuffy and which will remind them of the music teachers they least liked and whose breath most reeked.

But there’s always your own bedroom.

I promise you, what Morrissey could plant in the mind of a lonely 14 year old, DFD and Schubert can plant in yours. You just have to give it a little time. It’s a new mode and it’ll fuck your head the first time you hear it. But then just you, the incomparable Gerald Moore at the piano and the melting, utterly modest, plain, simple and yet shatteringly emotional voice of one of the most perfect singers ever to be born on this planet … to die without giving it a chance would be a crime against nature and history and art.

Well. You owe it to yourself to try don’t you? Hell, I listened to Nicki Menaj. Oh I do hope I’ve spelt her right. I’ll get such beans if I’ve fluffed it…

x

Stephen

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