Friday, September 16, 2005


Ben Wiant, my friend and Dichterliebe daddy

My friend Ben and I have decided to collaborate on a performance of Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe (Poet's Love) for this November 1, a noon concert series at a downtown church. This is a cycle of 16 lieder (art songs) for voice and piano, in German, with poetry by Heinrich Heine. The entire set was composed in 1841 when Schumann, syphilis eating away at his brain, had a feverish year writing some of the most exquisite lieder in memory. The songs do not tell one complete story, but allude to nature, love, loss and are heavy with irony.

Robert Schumann...looks as if my singing pissed him off.
Why am I doing this? Does the world need me to get up there and fall on my ass? (Maybe) Because Ben is a dear friend who after thirty years wanted to begin to play the piano again-and he asked me to join him in this adventure. Because we both love Schumann, the music and the poetry. I love it more when listening to Fritz Wunderlich and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in my underwear while scratching myself or eating another piece of cheesecake, but I digress...In short, this is like Mt. Everest, something I'd like to try once before I die.

I'm going to keep a diary of our rehearsals and preparation. Now, I first learned these pieces in college in the mid 1970s. I recently reconnected on line with a former mentor and music teacher who, when told of this project said, Oh God. Do you have to? Ben and I had our first rehearsal the other day. We are both using scores. I find that just spitting out the German words in time is a formidable challenge. Of course, they are just words and are incomprehensible to 90% of the audience and (mostly) to me at this point. I'm from Boston myself, not Dresden. And one must take the timbre of the German language, play with it (so to speak) and match it to Schumann's notes. This above all requires both singer and pianist to listen to each other. Never mind. For now, Ben pounded out notes and I croaked and yelled and gurgled along. We got through the whole thing once without stopping. Did we make music? Did we communicate the wonderful biting sense of the pieces? Is the pope Jewish?

Stay tuned. I'm renting a tux for November 1 and come hell or high water I'll get up there. Ben will shine and I'll smile along for the ride.

Meanwhile, this Dichterliebe Diary will update every few days.

Greetings to all


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