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For The Season, Trio Mediaeval Spans Centuries

NPR Staff

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6 min 21 sec   Trio Mediaeval is (from left) Berit Opheim, Anna Maria Friman and Linn Andrea Fulgseth.

Trio Mediaeval is (from left) Berit Opheim, Anna Maria Friman and Linn Andrea Fulgseth.

Courtesy of the artist

For all those who just can't bear to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" or any of the other Yuletide earworms that will invade shopping malls and radio waves in the coming months, Norway's Trio Mediaeval has some new old music for the holiday season.

The group's new album, Aquilonis, features 15th-century English carols that member Linn Andrea Fuglseth found in a book of Old English medieval carols before Trio Mediaeval formed. In fact, "Alleluia: A New Werke," one of the carols on the album, is the reason she started Trio Mediaeval, she says.

"It was so spectacular when I first heard it," she tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

The album is not just carols. There are also Italian songs from the 12th century, Icelandic chants from the Middle Ages, a few modern works and traditional Norwegian folk melodies. The record also marks the first time that the trio of women has recorded with accompaniment from a special type of fiddle played by member Anna Maria Friman.

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Trio Mediaeval's Norwegian Christmas

"It's sort of the national instrument of Norway, which is called the Hardanger fiddle," Fuglseth explains. "It's a violin that's from a place called Hardanger in the west coast of Norway. And the special thing about this fiddle is that it has sympathetic strings underneath the main strings so you can hear more than one string at a time. The actual decoration on the instrument is very, very beautiful ebony pieces that are made into beautiful artwork on the actual violin. It's a beautiful instrument."

Medieval music is, in many ways, the domain of men. Most of the music the group — Fuglseth, Friman and Berit Opheim — performs was originally written for male voices.

"That's the nice thing," Fuglseth says. "That we can actually take some music that's written for men and do it for female voices. There were a few monasteries, also, for nuns in Europe in the Middle Ages and there's some music from there too. But we haven't done as much of that. I think it's nice to do things that's not expected."

Those who want to get as far away from American Christmas as possible will want to hear the full conversation at the audio link, in which Fuglseth describes the Norwegian version of the winter holiday. Hint: It includes a "very small Santa Claus."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
26 days ago | |
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Musicians' Brains Really Do Work Differently — In A Good Way

"Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments, there are fireworks going off all over their brain?"

That's the launching point for a fantastic little video made by educator Anita Collins and animator Sharon Colman Graham for TED-Ed. What they explain is that while listening to music is beneficial, playing music is "the brain's equivalent of a full-body workout."

What's more: Neuroscientists have found that some of these aspects of mental work are different from any other activity studied, including playing sports or engaging in various creative pursuits.

For teachers, TED-Ed has made a full, customizable lesson plan available on this fascinating topic and exciting research. Happy playing!

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
29 days ago | |
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A Flurry Of Premieres For American Orchestras

Mark Mobley This weekend Leonard Slatkin leads the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in several premieres, webcast live.

This weekend Leonard Slatkin leads the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in several premieres, webcast live.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

How about some good — even great — news from American orchestras? Today and tomorrow, four of the country's biggest ensembles are playing world premieres by prominent composers.

  • First up is the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which tonight is premiering Lakes Awake at Dawn for chorus and orchestra by Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds. It's a joint commission by the BSO and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in honor of their shared music director, Andris Nelsons, a Latvian conductor who turned 36 Tuesday. For a taste of Esenvalds' haunting music, try his Stars, as performed by the State Choir Latvija. In this program, Nelsons will also lead Pulitzer Prize winner John Harbison's choral scherzo Koussevitzky Said, Rachmaninoff's The Bells and Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto, featuring soloist Yo-Yo Ma.
  • Also tonight, Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin will conduct his own Endgames, which focuses on woodwind outliers including the piccolo and contrabassoon. He will also lead the premiere of the Trombone Concerto written by his wife, Cindy McTee, with DSO principal trombonist Kenneth Thompkins as soloist; here's her First Symphony. The concert begins with Charles Ives' raucous (and seasonal) Yale-Princeton Football Game, also includes the String Quartet Concerto by American composer Benjamin Lees, and concludes with the perennial Gershwin favorite An American in Paris. Free video streaming of this program begins Friday at 10:45 a.m. Eastern at DSO.org.
  • The Los Angeles Philharmonic and music director Gustavo Dudamel are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall's organ. Tonight, they are premiering American composer Stephen Hartke's Fourth Symphony with organist Cameron Carpenter and soprano Heidi Stober as soloists; here's Hartke's Second Symphony. The program also includes Carpenter's solo transcription of Scriabin's Fourth Sonata, Barber's Toccata Festiva and Saint-Saëns' "Organ" Symphony.
  • Friday, between a pair of Mozart symphonies, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debuts another husband-and-wife outing, this time with violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson. The married couple joins music director Louis Langrée for the first performance of the Double Concerto by four-time Oscar winner André Previn. "He knows how to write a tune," Laredo told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "And he really writes from the heart." Here's Previn's 2007 Harp Concerto, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and conductor Danielle Gatti with soloist Xavier de Maistre.

Are you looking forward to hearing — or playing — any premieres? Let us know in the comments, or via Facebook or Twitter.

Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain receives its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera in the coming season.

Deceptive Cadence

Great Expectations: A New Season Of New Music

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29 days ago | |
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Uncovering The Heart Of Chopin — Literally

Composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, who died in 1849.

Composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, who died in 1849.

General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

News broke today of a clandestine exhumation of composer Frédéric Chopin's heart in Warsaw in April 2014. Presided over by a mix of scientists, clergy and scholars, this mysterious event took place in the middle of the night and seems, in its retelling, like something out of a Dan Brown novel — a mix of mysticism and cloak-and-dagger secrecy.

Most of the composer's remains are buried at Paris' famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, where the bodies of luminaries from Honoré Balzac to Jim Morrison rest. But Chopin, who died at age 39 as an exile in Paris, made a request as he lay dying: for his heart to return to Poland, his beloved homeland. After being smuggled past Russian border guards, it eventually was buried in a pillar at Warsaw's Holy Cross Church.

For years, the specimen has been both a symbol of Polish national pride and an object of intense curiosity.

According to the AP, a clandestine committee of 13 gathered at near midnight on April 14 at Holy Cross Church; their numbers included the archbishop of Warsaw, the country's culture minister and two scientists. They took more than 1,000 photos of the heart, and added hot wax to the jar containing the heart to boost its preservation.

"The spirit of this night was very sublime," Tadeusz Dobosz, the team's forensic scientist, told the AP. Before it was returned to its resting spot, Warsaw's archbishop recited prayers over the organ.

Though Chopin is generally believed to have died of tuberculosis, some scientists have made the case for the possibility of other fatal conditions, including cystic fibrosis.

Despite the ongoing mysteries surrounding the cause of Chopin's death, the team took no tissue samples. Bogdan Zdrojewski, the culture minister at the time of the exhumation, believes that there was no reason to poke or prod.

"We in Poland often say that Chopin died longing for his homeland," Zdrojewski told the AP. "Additional information which could possibly be gained about his death would not be enough of a reason to disturb Chopin's heart."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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Power And Struggle In A Soviet Symphony

Marin Alsop Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's once brilliant career took a dive after the official party paper criticized one of his operas in 1936. Shostakovich responded with his powerful Fifth Symphony.

Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's once brilliant career took a dive after the official party paper criticized one of his operas in 1936. Shostakovich responded with his powerful Fifth Symphony.

Central Press/Getty Images

One of my favorite pastimes is reading composer biographies. For me, context is critical in understanding music and being able to get the most out of every musical journey. Insight into the political, social, historical and personal landscape at a specific moment when a composer wrote a piece can add enormous dimension to the listening experience. Sharing that enhanced experience with listeners is incredibly rewarding and the Baltimore Symphony is the perfect partner. After all, how many orchestras have a playwright on staff?

Shostakovich: Notes for Stalin is a new Symphonic Play™ by writer and director Didi Balle, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's very own playwright-in-residence. (With the BSO and a cast of actors, the piece will be performed in North Bethesda, Md. Nov. 14 and in Baltimore Nov. 15.)

Our goal is to transport our audience to the very moment when Dmitri Shostakovich was writing his Fifth Symphony — to tell the story behind the piece, what inspired and compelled him to write it, and what it all means. Here, I'll turn it over to Didi Balle, who sets the scene of Shostakovich's powerful and perhaps enigmatic, Symphony No. 5:

On the eve of Jan. 26, 1936 Joseph Stalin and his entourage attended a performance of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District but they left the theater before the last act. The opera had been playing to acclaim for two years in Moscow and its 29-year-old composer was hailed a Russian musical genius, beloved by his fellow countrymen.

A few days after Stalin's ominous attendance, a vociferous and damning editorial called "Muddle Instead of Music" appeared anonymously in Pravda, the official Communist Party newspaper. The editorial denounced Shostakovich as a "formalist" and petty bourgeois composer whose "intentionally unharmonious muddled flow of sounds" was a danger to the Soviet people. Everyone was convinced Stalin himself penned the artistic death warrant.

Two weeks later a second unsigned editorial appeared in Pravda (an unprecedented sequence of attacks) denouncing Shostakovich's ballet The Limpid Stream in Moscow. Shostakovich was betrayed by nearly all of his colleagues in the Composers Union who supported Pravda's attacks. Stripped of professional support and friends, and anticipating the worst, Shostakovich allegedly kept a packed suitcase under his writing desk as he attempted to create new music in an atmosphere of isolation and fear.

Further catastrophic events unfolded: the arrest, imprisonment, exile and death of powerful patrons and family members. Shostakovich was forced to withdraw the Leningrad Philharmonic's premiere of his Symphony No. 4, fearing for his life and the musicians who dared play his music. Still, he continued to compose. Meanwhile, Stalin and his officials awaited the debut of his Fifth Symphony to see if a chastened Shostakovich had "reformed" and written music according to their dictates.

Against this backdrop of pervasive political terror and personal attack, Shostakovich had to find a way to write his Symphony No. 5, scheduled to premiere Nov. 21, 1937. Fearing arrest, torture and even death, the composer, with sly brilliance and a remarkable spirit, found a way to compose music which appeared to adhere to Stalin's directives while subtly weaving a deeper and sardonic musical truth, bearing testimony to the despair and terror that reigned over the nation.

From the symphony's opening battle between the lower and the upper strings and its soaring melodies, to the sounds of hopeless oppression and finally to the triumph of the human spirit, Shostakovich brilliantly captures the conflicting moods of a time, place and people.

(This essay includes program notes by writer and director Didi Balle.)

YouTube Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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Power And Struggle In A Soviet Symphony

Marin Alsop

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7 min 58 sec   Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's once brilliant career took a dive after the official party paper criticized one of his operas in 1936. Shostakovich responded with his powerful Fifth Symphony.

Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's once brilliant career took a dive after the official party paper criticized one of his operas in 1936. Shostakovich responded with his powerful Fifth Symphony.

Central Press/Getty Images

One of my favorite pastimes is reading composer biographies. For me, context is critical in understanding music and being able to get the most out of every musical journey. Insight into the political, social, historical and personal landscape at a specific moment when a composer wrote a piece can add enormous dimension to the listening experience. Sharing that enhanced experience with listeners is incredibly rewarding and the Baltimore Symphony is the perfect partner. After all, how many orchestras have a playwright on staff?

Shostakovich: Notes for Stalin is a new Symphonic Play™ by writer and director Didi Balle, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's very own playwright-in-residence. (With the BSO and a cast of actors, the piece will be performed in North Bethesda, Md. Nov. 14 and in Baltimore Nov. 15.)

Our goal is to transport our audience to the very moment when Dmitri Shostakovich was writing his Fifth Symphony — to tell the story behind the piece, what inspired and compelled him to write it, and what it all means. Here, I'll turn it over to Didi Balle, who sets the scene of Shostakovich's powerful and perhaps enigmatic, Symphony No. 5:

On the eve of Jan. 26, 1936 Joseph Stalin and his entourage attended a performance of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District but they left the theater before the last act. The opera had been playing to acclaim for two years in Moscow and its 29-year-old composer was hailed a Russian musical genius, beloved by his fellow countrymen.

A few days after Stalin's ominous attendance, a vociferous and damning editorial called "Muddle Instead of Music" appeared anonymously in Pravda, the official Communist Party newspaper. The editorial denounced Shostakovich as a "formalist" and petty bourgeois composer whose "intentionally unharmonious muddled flow of sounds" was a danger to the Soviet people. Everyone was convinced Stalin himself penned the artistic death warrant.

Two weeks later a second unsigned editorial appeared in Pravda (an unprecedented sequence of attacks) denouncing Shostakovich's ballet The Limpid Stream in Moscow. Shostakovich was betrayed by nearly all of his colleagues in the Composers Union who supported Pravda's attacks. Stripped of professional support and friends, and anticipating the worst, Shostakovich allegedly kept a packed suitcase under his writing desk as he attempted to create new music in an atmosphere of isolation and fear.

Further catastrophic events unfolded: the arrest, imprisonment, exile and death of powerful patrons and family members. Shostakovich was forced to withdraw the Leningrad Philharmonic's premiere of his Symphony No. 4, fearing for his life and the musicians who dared play his music. Still, he continued to compose. Meanwhile, Stalin and his officials awaited the debut of his Fifth Symphony to see if a chastened Shostakovich had "reformed" and written music according to their dictates.

Against this backdrop of pervasive political terror and personal attack, Shostakovich had to find a way to write his Symphony No. 5, scheduled to premiere Nov. 21, 1937. Fearing arrest, torture and even death, the composer, with sly brilliance and a remarkable spirit, found a way to compose music which appeared to adhere to Stalin's directives while subtly weaving a deeper and sardonic musical truth, bearing testimony to the despair and terror that reigned over the nation.

From the symphony's opening battle between the lower and the upper strings and its soaring melodies, to the sounds of hopeless oppression and finally to the triumph of the human spirit, Shostakovich brilliantly captures the conflicting moods of a time, place and people.

(This essay includes program notes by writer and director Didi Balle.)

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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Just Who Is This Opera Star Singing At The World Series Tonight?

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is singing the national anthem at Game 7 of the World Series tonight in Kansas City, Mo.

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is singing the national anthem at Game 7 of the World Series tonight in Kansas City, Mo.

Simon Pauly/Courtesy of the artist

Maybe this trajectory mirrors the Kansas City Royals' unlikely road to the pennant: An opera star beats out much more mainstream artists to sing the national anthem at the decisive World Series Game 7.

After a viral campaign called #LetJoyceSing emerged on Twitter, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was tapped to sing. (Is this a new trend, the melding of the opera stage and the big leagues? Think back: Renee Fleming sang at the Super Bowl in January.)

Just as she's a big fan of the Royals, we're huge fans of hers — not only does she have an incredible voice, she's a natural presence onstage and off. So toi, toi, toi, Joyce! We're rooting for you.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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Great Danes: Three Symphonic Albums By Danish Composers

A 1931 portrait of Danish composer Carl Nielsen by Sigurd Swane. Nielsen's symphonies are still undervalued.

A 1931 portrait of Danish composer Carl Nielsen by Sigurd Swane. Nielsen's symphonies are still undervalued.

Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Arc

Denmark may be small — smaller than West Virginia — but its musical impact is disproportionately big. Since the late 19th century, some of the best symphonists have hailed from the Scandinavian country, and though they may not be household names in the U.S., their works have influence far beyond their homeland. Three recent albums offer a glimpse of the Nordic sound, from the underappreciated Carl Nielsen, whose music is getting a boost from the New York Philharmonic lately, to his symphonic successors, the experimental Per Nørgård and the more accessible Poul Ruders.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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After 200 Years, A Schubert Song Still Resonates

Listen Now

5 min 24 sec   Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) portrayed Goethe's character Gretchen, known as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.

Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) portrayed Goethe's character Gretchen, known as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.

Bettmann/CORBIS

Two hundred years ago today, a 17-year-old kid from Vienna wrote a song that would change the way composers thought about songwriting. That kid was Franz Schubert, and his song "Gretchen am Spinnrade" (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) put German art song — or lieder as it's called — on the map. The song's dramatic punch and bold innovations still reverberate today.

In October 1814, Schubert was a distracted teenager searching for a career. He'd just passed his teacher exams and was probably not thrilled about going to work at his father's school. For two years he'd been writing songs, but pianist Graham Johnson, who has written a forthcoming three-volume work on Schubert's songs, says on Oct. 19th something extraordinary happened.

"There is a real distinct feeling of Schubert blown away by the drama and the story he has read," Johnson says.

The story Schubert read was Goethe's Faust — the one where the guy sells his soul to the devil in exchange for a swinging lifestyle which of course includes a girl, Gretchen. There's a point in the story where Gretchen, alone in her room, has a freakout moment over her new boyfriend, Faust, as she spins yarn. And it's this intimate scene that Schubert set to music.

"I'll never find peace again, my heart is heavy," Gretchen sings as the song opens. Over the next three minutes, Johnson says, all cylinders are firing — melody, harmony voice and piano.

"The most amazing thing is that a 17-year-old boy can somehow enter into the female pysche with such an incredible amount of understanding as if he himself had experienced such feelings," Johnson says. And those feelings explode with operatic intensity half-way through the song when Gretchen stops the spinning wheel cold and screams "Sein kuss!" (His kiss!).

"One of the things I like about that moment is that it's primal," says soprano Renée Fleming, who included the song on her Schubert album. "And that's such a brilliant thing that he understood that people really want to have that moment where they just let it out. Because it builds and builds and builds and then finally, with the release, it's the most powerful thing she experienced — his kiss."

After the outburst, Gretchen tries to get the spinning wheel going again. You can hear it sputter in the piano, finally coming back up to speed as the vocal refrain returns. The piano plays a key role of its own in the song. In the right hand, you can hear the spinning of the wheel, in the left, the staccato clacking of the bobbin. But Johnson says it's much more than a brilliant musical metaphor.

"There is a feeling where we no longer care about it being the spinning wheel," Johnson says. "It becomes synonymous with the whirring, the dislocation, of a young woman's discovery of her sexual vulnerability." And that was a radical departure for German art song.

But that was 200 years ago. And if you argued that no one really cares about songs like this anymore, Johnson would tell you otherwise.

"Everybody thinks that lieder is something incredibly outdated and non-relevant," he says. "But the idea of giving a woman's anguish center stage. And she's speaking, 'It's me who's suffering this.' And we get a certain framework. I mean, Billie Holiday would have understood."

And so do some of today's songwriters, like Rufus Wainwright and especially Gabriel Kahane. "The sort of alleged gulf between the vernacular music of today — piano pop today, if you want to call it that — and what Schubert's doing is exaggerated," Kahane says.

Kahane has written his own song cycles (including Craigslistlieder, based on personal ads) as well as orchestral works, but he says that it's actually his more pop-oriented songs that owe a debt to Schubert.

"There's a song, 'Merritt Pkwy,' which someone described as having been from the wastepaper basket of Schubert, but I think he meant that as a compliment," Kahane says with a chuckle. Sometimes, Kahane admits, he feels the shadow of Schubert hovering over him. Kahane even sings a few of the composer's songs in his concerts.

So maybe "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" still matters today. Johnson says some of the basic elements in Schubert's songs are all around us: "It's that idea of a tune with a very high amount of passionate identification. I mean it's everywhere. It's everywhere to be found."

Everywhere thanks to a 17-year-old kid in Vienna 200 years ago.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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After 200 Years, A Schubert Song Still Resonates

Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) portrayed Goethe's character Gretchen, known as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.

Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) portrayed Goethe's character Gretchen, known as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.

Bettmann/CORBIS

Two hundred years ago today, a 17-year-old kid from Vienna wrote a song that would change the way composers thought about songwriting. That kid was Franz Schubert, and his song "Gretchen am Spinnrade" (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) put German art song — or lieder as it's called — on the map. The song's dramatic punch and bold innovations still reverberate today.

In October 1814, Schubert was a distracted teenager searching for a career. He'd just passed his teacher exams and was probably not thrilled about going to work at his father's school. For two years he'd been writing songs, but pianist Graham Johnson, who has written a forthcoming three-volume work on Schubert's songs, says on Oct. 19th something extraordinary happened.

"There is a real distinct feeling of Schubert blown away by the drama and the story he has read," Johnson says.

The story Schubert read was Goethe's Faust — the one where the guy sells his soul to the devil in exchange for a swinging lifestyle which of course includes a girl, Gretchen. There's a point in the story where Gretchen, alone in her room, has a freakout moment over her new boyfriend, Faust, as she spins yarn. And it's this intimate scene that Schubert set to music.

"I'll never find peace again, my heart is heavy," Gretchen sings as the song opens. Over the next three minutes, Johnson says, all cylinders are firing — melody, harmony voice and piano.

"The most amazing thing is that a 17-year-old boy can somehow enter into the female pysche with such an incredible amount of understanding as if he himself had experienced such feelings," Johnson says. And those feelings explode with operatic intensity half-way through the song when Gretchen stops the spinning wheel cold and screams "Sein kuss!" (His kiss!).

YouTube

"One of the things I like about that moment is that it's primal," says soprano Renée Fleming, who included the song on her Schubert album. "And that's such a brilliant thing that he understood that people really want to have that moment where they just let it out. Because it builds and builds and builds and then finally, with the release, it's the most powerful thing she experienced — his kiss."

After the outburst, Gretchen tries to get the spinning wheel going again. You can hear it sputter in the piano, finally coming back up to speed as the vocal refrain returns. The piano plays a key role of its own in the song. In the right hand, you can hear the spinning of the wheel, in the left, the staccato clacking of the bobbin. But Johnson says it's much more than a brilliant musical metaphor.

"There is a feeling where we no longer care about it being the spinning wheel," Johnson says. "It becomes synonymous with the whirring, the dislocation, of a young woman's discovery of her sexual vulnerability." And that was a radical departure for German art song.

But that was 200 years ago. And if you argued that no one really cares about songs like this anymore, Johnson would tell you otherwise.

"Everybody thinks that lieder is something incredibly outdated and non-relevant," he says. "But the idea of giving a woman's anguish center stage. And she's speaking, 'It's me who's suffering this.' And we get a certain framework. I mean, Billie Holiday would have understood."

And so do some of today's songwriters, like Rufus Wainwright and especially Gabriel Kahane. "The sort of alleged gulf between the vernacular music of today — piano pop today, if you want to call it that — and what Schubert's doing is exaggerated," Kahane says.

Kahane has written his own song cycles (including Craigslistlieder, based on personal ads) as well as orchestral works, but he says that it's actually his more pop-oriented songs that owe a debt to Schubert.

"There's a song, 'Merritt Pkwy,' which someone described as having been from the wastepaper basket of Schubert, but I think he meant that as a compliment," Kahane says with a chuckle. Sometimes, Kahane admits, he feels the shadow of Schubert hovering over him. Kahane even sings a few of the composer's songs in his concerts.

So maybe "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" still matters today. Johnson says some of the basic elements in Schubert's songs are all around us: "It's that idea of a tune with a very high amount of passionate identification. I mean it's everywhere. It's everywhere to be found."

Everywhere thanks to a 17-year-old kid in Vienna 200 years ago.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
1 month ago | |
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