Thursday, 14 July 2016

The journey (rehearsal of Winterreise)

It was a tremendous privilege to sit in on an open rehearsal of Winterreise. Bravely and generously Roderick Williams and Andrew West opened up their rehearsal, before they take it to Australia. It will be interspersed with extracts from Scott's diaries. We didn't hear them so I can't comment on that.
Very obviously I am not going to offer any kind of review on a rehearsal, but the process itself was worthy of a few notes. Firstly, the fact it is such a famous piece, something one knows well, and which is so startlingly dark, to see it unpicked a bit, rather than in hyper-polished concert performance is fascinating. Secondly, hearing the conversation between pianist and singer was worth a journey (even in winter). Williams has done fewer of these than West. What pause do we want before the final verse of 'Der Lindenbaum'; what about the speed of 'Traum' at the end of the first verse? How loud should 'nicht' be at the end of 'Einsamkeit'? Thirdly, the balance between the two is dictated by Schubert - he gives all the markings to the pianist rather than the singer.  Finally, it is a very different experience as the audience was very well behaved. At first there were three, but perhaps 18 drifted in by the end. No coughing. No noises at all. No applause either (that's the etiquette). All this made for a superbly intimate Winterreise. In a small practice room, it felt almost voyeuristic to peep in on this private process. Even with interruptions and discussion between them, it didn't lose much momentum at all for it, and it gained whatever it lost thus in intensity.
So thank you for the invitation. I'd do that again if I were invited.

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