Archives For Franz Schubert

Ave Maria

December 18, 2016 — 95 Comments

It was such a treat to travel home yesterday with my brother Matt for the Christmas break, Tom my younger brother was also driving home at the same time from Glasgow. This year the timings were perfect as we were all able to make it home in time to celebrate my Dad’s birthday yesterday.

When we are all together it reminds me how lucky I am and gives me time to reflect on what has happened over the year and to plan and set my goals for the year to come. It is also a time to think about my friends, many of whom have started out on new paths of their journey through life. Some starting new careers, some studying towards their own personal goals and some starting families of their own. I wish each and every one of them a magical new year filled with happiness and contentment.

To all my friends here I want to thank you for your boundless enthusiasm, thoughtful advice, and sincere encouragement. You have helped make the last four years so enjoyable and personally rewarding and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

Sadly 2016 also was the year that I lost my Mema (Grandma) who passed away in April. My Pepa (Grandpa) asked me to record a song to play at the funeral to help celebrate her life as the family gathered to say their farewells. It was a difficult song for me to perform and one of the last that I recorded quickly at the Royal College of Scotland. Because of the emotions that the song evoked, I found it difficult at first to listen back to the recording but now as I sit here with my family, having reflected on the blessings that we have all received throughout 2016 I felt it was a good time to share the recording with you.

Ave Maria – Schubert

I had a very musical day on Friday 30th of October. At lunchtime I was able to grab a sandwich and listen to a concert held in the Jubilee Hall at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, where two of my close friends George Todica and Daniel Ciobanu performed.


George Todica                                                             Daniel Petrica Ciobanu

The exciting and very musical program involved works by Scriabin, Ravel, Liszt and Trofin. I particularly enjoyed George’s interpretation of Valses Nobles et Sentimales. Before playing he explained in his introduction that the climax takes place on the seventh piece of this cycle and that the eighth acts as an epilogue and compared it to the way an older person recollects memories of their past. The concert ended with a bang with two piano four hand pieces in which the two performers were practically dancing around the piano performing a wild duet of Romanian folk music.

After this I ran back to the Royal Conservatoire of  Scotland to observe some of the Opera school students receiving coaching from Kathryn Harries in the AGOS studio. Kathryn Harries is the Director of the National Opera Studio, which is based in London, after having a very successful performing career as an operatic soprano. She has an exuberant personality and successfully commanded the space for continuous four hour block.

Kathryn Harries

Kathryn Harries

It was interesting to carefully and attentively watch this event as I was able to receive a lot of information and ideas that I can put towards my own practise. The main idea I have taken away is that subconscious body movements performed whilst singing can sometimes give an insight into what is happening. For example some students would throw a shoulder forward (slightly) at the start of phrases. Demonstrating their eagerness to begin the phrase well however it made for an aggressive sound. And another student held their arm in tight against them with their hand forming in a fist which was linked to the tight vocal line. However gestures can also unlock and aid a singer’s ability to improve a weakness. She explained that because we can’t see our instrument when we play we must use the tools of imagination. An example of her technique was to involve swinging arm movements which would mirror the action of expanding ribs to reinforce the engagement of the support and to keep the ribs out wide whilst singing. This aided most of the singers on stage and definitely an exercise I will try. She gave us lots of tips and encouraged our practise to be specific rather than general.

However one thing that I think is a transferable piece of advice when learning, improving a skill or completing a task at work  is to treat yourself consistently like a little puppy, don’t ever kick it because it’s not doing it right or give up on it because it can’t do it the first, fifth or the tenth time. Instead be patient and loving.


The cherry on the cake was going to the Sunday coffee concert today at the Royal Conservatoire at 11:30. The programme was a great selection from German composers involving pupils and professors performing together. It was wonderful to see such a high standard of musical interpretation. A personal highlight were the Schubert pieces performed by Julia Daramy-Williams and Julian Tovey in which two rich voices superbly conveyed poems by Goethe.



Sadly I could not record the singers today but here is my performance of Schubert’s  “Gretchen am Spinnrade” from 2014.  I really must try and get the opportunity to record this again next year, for those of you who have not seen it I hope that you enjoy it.



Franz Schubert, born in January 1797, was an Austrian composer who died at the young age of 31 years. His work bridged classical and romantic. He had an early gift for music playing the piano, violin and organ and was also an excellent singer although when his voice broke in 1812 it forced him to leave college, Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) after earning a choir scholarship there in 1808. His father was a school teacher, and he taught the young Schubert rudimentary violin whilst his elder brother taught him piano. His mother was a home maker and played the cello. He was their 12th child, he had 14 siblings, nine died in infancy.


Franz Schubert

Between 1813 and 1815 Schubert was a prolific songwriter, at the age of 17 he wrote two of his first German Lieds ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and ‘Der Erlkönig’. He worked with texts from poetry giants like Wolfgang von Goethe, interpreting their poetry using his musical creativeness. These pieces are very dramatic, the depiction of the spinning wheel and treadle in the piano in ‘Gretchen’ are a tricky pictorial keyboard figuration.


Therese Grob

He had to teach to make ends meet but he hated it. In 1814 he met a soprano called Therese Grob and wrote several works for her, he wanted to marry her but was thwarted by harsh marriage laws where he had to show he had the means to support a family. He lived in the early 1820’s with a close-knit group of artists and students, he and four of his friends were arrested by the Austrian police who were on their guard against revolutionary activities. One of his friends was banished from Austria and Schubert was ‘severely reprimanded’. Schubert was not quite five feet tall and his friends nicknamed him “Schwämmerl” ‘Little Mushroom’.


Franz Liszt

When he died in November 1828, he’d been ill with headaches, fever, swollen joints and vomiting, impoverished and neglected except by a circle of his friends who were in awe of his genius. The composer Franz Liszt said of him after his death that ‘he was the most poetic musician who ever lived’. His output in his short life was prolific consisting of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven completed symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music.

Today Schubert is placed amongst the greatest composers of the early Romantic era and as such is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.

This was the video of performance of this fabulous composition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2014 courtesy of Llangollen.


An Early Depiction Of Gretchen am Spinnrade

English Translation

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

Where I do not have him,
That is the grave,
The whole world
Is bitter to me.

My poor head
Is crazy to me,
My poor mind
Is torn apart.

For him only, I look
Out the window
Only for him do I go
Out of the house.

His tall walk,
His noble figure,
His mouth’s smile,
His eyes’ power,

And his mouth’s
Magic flow,
His handclasp,
and ah! his kiss!

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

My bosom urges itself
toward him.
Ah, might I grasp
And hold him!

And kiss him,
As I would wish,
At his kisses
I should die!