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In this online edition you can find additional information for our IPA edition of Franz Schubert’s Winterreise.

Further, linguistically relevant procedures and decisions are explained in the critical report.

Critical Report

Since this edition has a focus on pronunciation when singing, the critical report is deliberately kept short. However, we would like to comment on some fundamental philological, musicological, and linguistic decisions.

The IPA-transcription was highlighted with bold text, enabling us to omit square brackets or slashes that usually mark a phonetic or phonological transcription.

Primary and secondary stresses are assigned according to stresses in spoken words. They do not necessarily have to correspond to the musical phrase. Accentuations are not indicated, but usually result from the musical phrase.

Syllables are not, as usual, marked by punctuation, but with hyphens. As in the orthographic text, we also use underscores at the word ends to facilitate the reading of the transcription.

When consonants occur at the end of a syllable in the middle of a word, they are systematically moved to the onset of the following syllable. This rule is only deviated from in exceptional cases, such as the combination with extremely short note values. This approach becomes particularly comprehensible in combination with longer note values and melismas: Many singers aim at staying on sonorous sounds like vowels as long as possible.

Diphthongs are transcribed in a completely different way than when speaking, as you can see in figure 3 (chapter »IPA for German«). It is also considered that when singing, the first vowel of the diphthong is usually sung longer than the second vowel or the transition from one vowel to the other, which cannot be recorded in the transcription, or only inadequately. The transmission of the second vowel in each case can be, amongst other reasons, explained by the often-low position of the larynx in classical singing technique.

As described in our introduction to IPA, the »r« in German can be pronounced in various ways. Due to this complexity, we decided to go with the simplest variant, usually the low Schwa. But here, it is possible to adapt the pronunciation according to your own preferences and interpretation. Thus, at these points, the transcriptions are suggestions rather than static guidelines.

The aspiration of consonants is not transcribed as it is predictable due to phonological rules and also tends to be less when singing than when speaking. This applies especially for soloist singing, as it is the case in the Winterreise.

In some cases, a liaison indicates that there are originally two words, which, due to the spelling or composition, are to be pronounced as one word. In this way, we ensure smooth attribution of the transcription to the original orthographic text.

The original spelling of the lyrics from the 1895 edition was maintained and not altered or normalised. We generally assume that old spelling can point to certain conventions of pronunciation. In this edition, for example, the use of »th« instead of a simple »t« could suggest a stronger aspiration of the consonant.

The performance instructions of the individual songs, as well as indications such as »laut«, »leise«, »stark« or »a tempo«, correspond to the 1895 edition, but their spelling has been standardised. The score has been revised according to modern rules of musical notation: Appoggiaturas and acciaccatura are always linked to the main note with a slur, and triplets without a continuous beam are market with brackets. Moreover, chained slurs have been dissolved where they do not indicate the phrasing, as is the case at the beginning of No. 1 »Gute Nacht«.

Occasionally, in the 1895 print, the distinction of accents and descrescendo hairpins is not accurate. This is, for instance, the case in No. 1 »Gute Nacht«, No. 3 »Gefror’ne Thränen« and No. 4 »Erstarrung« (in each case in the piano part). We were mostly able to unify unclear passages according to similar lines with clear accentuations. The irregularities in the first critical edition from 1895 are presumably caused by the difficult legibility of Schubert’s autographs with often carelessly written accents and hairpins.

There are a few cases where the 1895 edition does not clearly indicate the position of dynamic signs, especially hairpins. We adapted them accordingly to the phrase. Trills, staccati and clearly recognizable accents are in accordance with the original. The only exception are the trills in the voice in No. 11 »Frühlingstraum«: We have eliminated the brackets to improve legibility.


Introduction to the work

The Winterreise D 911 is probably the most well-known work by Franz Schubert and the most frequently performed song cycle for voice and piano. It was composed in 1827, only one year before Schubert’s death. Like in his first song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (1823), the lyrics are poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794–1827), who lived in Dessau (Saxony-Anhalt).

The song cycle is divided into two so-called Abtheilungen (sections). The first Abtheilung was published in January 1828, and the second in late December 1828. Schubert, who died on November 19th, had corrected the proofs on his deathbed. The separation of the Abtheilungen is due to the genesis of the Winterreise: The poems that make up the first part were taken from the almanac Urania. Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1823. In the almanac, they are entitled »Wanderlieder von Wilhelm Müller. Die Winterreise. In zwölf Liedern«. After Schubert had set these poems to music, he discovered the entire series of 24 poems in Müller’s Sieben und siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (Poems from the posthumous papers of a travelling horn-player), published in 1824. The second Abtheilung consists therefore of the remaining songs which Schubert had not yet composed. As a result, the sequence of the songs in Schubert’s Winterreise does not exactly correspond to the order intended by Müller. If you wanted to perform the song cycle in the original sequence of the poems, the order would be the following: 1–5, 13, 6–8, 14–21, 9–10, 23, 11–12, 22, 24.

This discrepancy between the setting and the poetic original already shows that there is no actual storyline in the cycle: The Winterreise is rather a series of single events, emotions, and situations the lyrical first-person – which is usually identified as a male character – experiences during his (as No. 1 »Gute Nacht« suggests) apparently nocturnal »Winterreise«. The role of the piano is often illustrative. Frequent syncopations, tremolos and surprising accents display the feelings that are expressed in the lyrics. The irregular rhythm in No. 9, for example, symbolizes the »Irrlicht« (Wisp). Particularly the second Abtheilung offers a rich repertoire of natural and ambient sounds, like howling dogs, shrieking crows, the post horn and, finally, the »Leiermann« (No. 24) whose hurdy gurdy plays its simple melody.

The lyrics of the Winterreise can be interpreted in various ways. The most popular reading is probably that the emotions of the lyrical first-person emerge from a heartbreak. However, a reference to life itself – not only to love life – is also possible, as well as a political interpretation. As a singer, feel free to find your own meaning in Müller’s texts and Schubert’s wonderful music!

Today, the song cycle is usually sung in its entirety and by one single singer-pianist-duo. However, this seems to have been the exception during Schubert’s lifetime, even in the context of domestic music evenings and Schubertiade; the common practice was rather to divide the songs among several singers or to perform them individually. To this day, the Winterreise invites not only to the coherent performance of the cycle, but especially to the creative handling of the material, also in the sense of new arrangements with other instruments. There are numerous settings for voice and various instruments (like guitar, hurdy gurdy or different orchestras) and instrumental arrangements alike (e.g., for viola and piano by Tabea Zimmermann, released as recording in 1991), Franz Liszt’s arrangements for piano solo probably being the most famous among them. Creative approaches to the motifs of the Winterreise range from Berthold Brecht’s drama Baal (1918) across various scenic realisations of the texts in concerts to Hans Steinbichler’s film Winterreise from 2006.

Despite the original keys being for tenor, the performance of the song cycle by baritone and bass singers has become a common practice. Recordings for tenor are, for instance, the ones by Peter Schreier (1985 with Swjatoslaw Richter; 1994 with András Schiff). For Baritone or Bass, recordings by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1948, 1963, 1966, 1971, 1978, 1980 and 1985), Christian Gerhaher (2001 with Gerold Huber) and Thomas Quasthoff (2005 with Daniel Barenboim) are examples. A performance of the cycle by female singers is less common, even though the expressed emotions are by all means universal. At least three female singers recorded the Winterreise: After Christa Ludwig (1988 with James Levine) and Brigitte Fassbaender (1990 with Aribert Reimann), Joyce DiDonatos recently recorded the cycle together with Yannik Nézet-Séguin, the CD was released in April 2021.

English Translation

The LiederNet archive provides several translations of the original song texts: https://www.lieder.net/lieder/assemble_texts.html?SongCycleId=47

Further reading

Coming soon.