Detours on a Winter’s Journey: Schubert’s Winterreise in nineteenth-century concerts

Loges, N. (2021) Detours on a Winter’s Journey: Schubert’s Winterreise in nineteenth-century concerts. Journal of the American Musicological Society, 74 (1) pp. 1-42. ISSN 0003-0139 (print) 1547-3848 (online)


This article traces the concert performance history of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, D. 911, during the second half of the nineteenth century. It begins by presenting a two-part theoretical framework, according to which the songs are understood as ontologically related to Friedrich Schlegel’s idea of the fragment, while the theoretical and practical treatments by musicians, critics, and scholars are viewed in relation to Walter Benjamin’s contrasting ideas of the “collector” and the “allegorist.” It then examines the practices of key figures such as the baritone Julius Stockhausen, a pioneer in lieder performance, and his circle, including Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Their performance and programming strategies are then contextualized against a larger statistical survey of the Winterreise songs in public concerts within the Austro-German realm, drawing on surviving concert programs and press reports. This shows that, in performance, individual songs were treated as fragments to be reassembled in many ways, inviting fresh interpretive possibilities on the part of listeners. Further contextualization is provided by a brief survey of Winterreise in print and as discussed in critical writing, revealing that here too there existed different approaches to the work as “whole” and “fragment.” Ultimately, I argue that the coherence of such cycles is not intrinsic but constructed over time by multiple actors—performers, listeners, publishers, and critics—and that an awareness of this creates new possibilities for the understanding and performance of multipart works.

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