Detours and dead ends on a Winter’s journey: Schubert’s Winterreise, D.911, in public performance

Loges, N. (2018) Detours and dead ends on a Winter’s journey: Schubert’s Winterreise, D.911, in public performance. In: 20th Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, 2-4 July 2018, Huddersfield. (Unpublished)


This paper examines early the public performances of Franz Schubert’s seminal song-cycle Winterreise in the Austro-German realm, principally Vienna in the 1850s-1880s, three decades after its publication in 1828. The songs were presented in various different ways in the public sphere, including in individual numbers, small groups, and under different titles, before the standard ‘complete recital’ presentation of 24 uninterrupted songs became firmly established. In tracing this performance history, I aim to show how concert programming practices present complex compromises between continuity and innovation (a parallel can be traced with the work’s publication history, and this will be touched upon too). While musicians have always sought the right balance point between these forces, numerous external factors affect the constitution of concert programmes, both within a broad historical era, and within specific contexts in that era. Therefore, while we know that the nineteenth century broadly witnessed a transformation of programming practices from the ‘patterned miscellany model’ to the presentation of coherent programmes involving just a few genres (see Weber 2008), many aspects of that historiographical claim merit closer exploration. The transformation can be traced through the journeys – involving many detours and dead ends – of works like Winterreise onto the concert platform. This study shows how the programming strategies musicians employed when presenting this vast vocal work were not only part of performers’ creative arsenals, but helped shape the reception history of both Schubert and Winterreise.

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