Kashudo (歌手道): Heartbeats and Walking Speeds: The Inner Pulse of Schubert’s Winterreise Part 2

In this installment, I will discuss the tempo relationships as established in the previous post.

Song/Tempo Dieskau /Brendel Quasthoff/Barenboim
1. Gute Nacht/Mässig quarter=56 quarter=50
2. Die Wetterfahne/Ziemlich geschwind dotted quarter=56 dotted quarter=50
3.Gefrorne Tränen/Nicht zu langsam half note=56 half-note=50
4. Erstarrung/Ziemlich Schnell Half note=56 half-note=50
5.Der Lindenbaum/Mässig quarter note=56 quarter note=50
6.Wasserflut/Langsam quarter note=56 quarter note=50
7.Auf dem Flusse/Langsam quarter note=56 quarter note=50
8. Rückblick/Nicht geschwind quarter note=56 quarter note=50
9. Irrlicht/Langsam eighth note=56 eighth note=50
10. Rast/Mässig quarter note=56 quarter note=50
11. Frühlingstraum/Etwas bewegt dotted quarter=56 dotted quarter=50*
11a.—————–/ Schnell 84 old quarter=new dotted quarter 75
11b.—————–/Langsam 84 Schnell dotted quarter=langsam eighth 75
11c.—————–/Etwas bewegt 168 Langsam 16th=Etwas bewegt eighth 150
11d. —————-/schnell 84 same as 11a 75
11e. —————-/langsam same as 11b
12. Einsamkeit/Langsam 56 11 dotted quarter=new quarter 50*
13. Die Post/Etwas geschwind 56 12 quarter note=13 dotted quarter note 50
14. Der greise Kopf/Etwas langsam 56 13 dotted quarter note=14 quarter note 50
15. Die Krähe/Etwas langsam 56 14 quarter note=15 eighth note 50
16. Letzte Hoffnung/Nicht zu geschwind 56 15 eighth note=16 quarter note 50
17. Im Dorfe/Etwas langsam 56 16 quarter note=17 dotted quarter note 50
18. Der stürmische Morgen /Ziemlich geschwind doch kräftig 84 17 quarter note=18 quarter note 75
19. Täuschung/Etwas geschwind 56 18 eighth note=19 eighth note 50
20. Der Wegweiser/Mässig 56 19 quarter note=20 eighth note 50
21. Das Wirthaus/Sehr langsam 56 20 quarter note=21 quarter note 50
22. Mut/Ziemlich geschwind, kräftig 84 18 quarter note=22 quarter note 75
23. Die Nebensonnen/Nicht zu langsam 42 22 quarter note=23 eighth note 38
24. Der Leiermann/Etwas langsam 56 23 triplet eighth note=24 eighth note*

As previously explained, the changing partitioning of the starting beat, quarter=56 (50) gives the impression of different speeds. However the scheme as I present it is not conclusive unless we consider additional musical clues from Schubert. Let us begin with the transition from song 4 to song 5 (Erstarrung and Lindenbaum)! Schubert gives some very specific rhythmic preparations from one song to another. In this case, the running triplet eighths of Erstarrung become the running sixteenths of Lindenbaum. The piano figure, triplet followed by dotted eighth and sixteenth, at the beginning of the second verse, “Ich mußtauch heute wandern” (E minor) and the third verse, “Nun bin ich manche Stunden,” (E major) foreshadow the piano figure in song 6, Wasserflut. Likewise, the thirty-second note figures in the second half of song 7, Auf dem Flusse beginning at the first “Erkennst du nun dein Bild?” foreshadow the running sixteenth notes in song 8, Rückblick. The most convincing clue that this scheme is not accidental is the example connecting Rückblick to song 9, Irrlicht. Schubert’s rhythmic schemes are routinely consistent in general in his songs. Rhythmic figures do not appear out of nowhere. However at the end of Rückblick there appear triplet eighth notes in the voice part. This moment always surprises me when I sing the cycle. The triplets always feel as the beginning of something new rather than the end of the song, and always feel resolved in the triplet sixteenth notes that appear in the right hand of the piano part in Irrlicht. Furthermore we cannot ignore the obvious sicilienne rhythm connecting the beginning of song 11, Frühlingstraum and song 13, Die Post. The straight triplet figure in Die Post also continues in the next two songs, 14 Der greise Kopf and 15, Die Krähe. Notice that a Rückblick (a backward look) at song 8, Rückblick shows two connecting patterns: 1) the alternating left and right hand in 3/4 time (same tempo, quarter note=56(50) according to the scheme I propose). 2) At the end of the song, Schubert brings another rare triplet figure in the voice part “…wein auf meiner Hoffnung Grab.”

From 17, Im Dorfe through 19, Täuschung there is a pattern of a relatively slower triple meter followed by a faster duple and then a relatively slower triple. This is the pattern observed in song 10, Frühlingstraum. There is an obvious question however. Why does my scheme allow for the same tempo, dotted quarter=56, for both song 17 (etwas langsam, somewhat slow) and song 19 (etwas geschwind, somewhat fast)? As previously explained, the partitioning of the beat gives impressions of fast or slow. In song 17, Im Dorfe, Schubert gives a sequence of long notes in the voice part followed by rare short notes. Conversely, the voice part in song 19, Täuschung, has many more short notes. The piano figures also contribute to the sense of fast or slow. The alternating sixteenth notes in 17 sound more like a trill than fast notes and actually has a slowing effect on the tempo.

The walking chords of song 20, Der Wegweiser are very reminescent of the opening song, Gute Nacht. The tempo marking is the same, Mässig. Song 21, Das Wirthaus, is the only song marked Sehr langsam. Yet I recommend the same tempo, quarter note=56. The harmonic rhythm of Das Wirthaus is really based on the half note. Even though there is movement within the half note, the harmonic changes determine the perception of speed, in this case very slow.

Song 22, Mut has the same marking (Ziemlich geschwind doch kräftig) as song 18, Der Stürmische Morgen. The two songs are similar in feeling. The former song tells of the oppression of a winter storm and the latter of resisting winter.

The tempo marking of song 23, Nicht zu langsam, gives reason to maintain quarter=42 or better said, eighth note=64. The dotted eighth-sixteenth figure and the quarter note harmonic rhythm and the occasional chromatic harmonies in between give a sense of speed that warrant the caution, Nicht zu langsam. There is also a persistent triplet in the voice part that appears occasional in the piano part as well. Once again this triplet figure prepares the return to quarter note=56.

The remaining connections are obvious. Where there is not a rhythmic pattern that foreshadows the new tempo, the pulse remains constant. Furthermore the tempo markings play at least a double role. Not only does the markings guide in deciding how the continuous pulse will be partitioned from song to song, they also give guidance with respect to subtle tempo changes in a given song. A marking like Nicht zu langsam as appears in song 23, Die Nebensonnen tells us first of all that the song is of a slow nature. Indeed the tempo marking we chose, per Dieskau/Brendel or Quasthoff/Barenboim (in this case quarter note=42 (38)) is indeed slow. The tempo marking guides us in this direction. It also gives the performers the freedom of chosing a tempo that is a few metronome clicks faster than the exact tempo relationship.

*The three places where I place the asterix relate to duple to triple or triple to duple relationships. Song 10, Frühlingstraum is the perfect example of how the construct of the song rhythmically is logical relative to duple to triple to duple changes. What happens in that song is a key for what needs to occur globally. The complete logic of the changes in song 10 establish the kind of precedence that makes less obvious cases acceptable to the listener.

Indeed as we will see in the next installment, Dieskau/Brendel will usually begin and end the song at the prescribed tempo with respect to the pulse relationship, but within the the song they take liberties with respect to text coloring or the general nature of the music. This kind of flexibility is possible when there is a clear sense of what the pulse relationship is. I should also said that a different scheme that diverges in the middle of the cycle from the one I prescribe here is possible. What does not work are random tempi that do not connect one song to the next.

Finally, I prefer quarter note=60 as a starting tempo. I believe this tempo makes for a more dynamic performance. In fact even though Dieskau/Brendel begin four clicks slower, they often accelerate in the middle of songs to arrive at a tempo that works better in those particular songs.

© 07/22/2009

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