How long does it take to listen to all of Schubert’s songs?

Jeffrey Arlo Brown, locked down in Covid with nothing better to do, put Schubert on the deck and set the timer.

It takes more than 40 hours, apparently, and many of the Lieder are, in his view, dire.

Like the one ‘featuring a shoe-addicted daughter – the misogynist proto-“Sex and the City” of Schubert lieder’.

Or: ‘This is sucking up in its purest form.’

In VAN magazine, Jeffrey gives them all a rating, from rotten to sublime.

Read here.

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    • Even more than 40 hours on that performance – 47+! I have all 7 volumes of those songs and some of them are absolutely dire, enough to bore the pants off both the singer and the poor audience!

    • I read all 37 plays last year in the RSC edition, also watched free youtube streams from the Globe and Stratford. In the old days you went to ‘hear’ a play, not to see.

      • You hear a play because you are in the audience. If you see it, you are in the visience. If you both hear and see it, you are in the audiovisience.

        How do Shakespeare’s plays rate on a scale of Yikes to Transcendent? Timon of Athens … King Lear?

        Bach’s cantatas on the other hand – all good, hours of blissful listening (Harnoncourt/Leonhardt boxed set, with Alfred Duerr’s Cantatas of J.S. Bach as a guide).

  • I believe Professor Peter Schikele, in one of his radio quiz contests broadcast from the music department of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, gave away, as first prize, the complete works of Antonio Vivaldi on 45 RPM singles, one per week, for the rest of your life.

  • But did he follow/study the text while listening to those songs? Sure that would have taken a whole lot longer. We’re not talking about pop songs that you can just sit back in a La-Z-Boy recliner and ‘hear the tracks’ for fun.

  • If he can call Der Hirt auf dem Felsen “unremarkable,” then, well…

    Some of the descriptions are amusing, though:

    • Harfenspieler D. 325: Very pianistic for a piece about the harp.
    • Der zürnende Barde: Furious, unexceptional.
    • Das Mädchen aus der Fremde D. 117: A nice normal song about a nice normal girl from somewhere else.
    • Mignon “Kennst du das Land?”: Makes me wish I was in a place with lemon trees; mission accomplished.

    (To be fair, the “sucking up in its purest form” that NL mentions above is about a song in praise of Salieri.)

  • “I hope to put myself in the position of a first-time listener” he says — a listener replete with 21st century attitudes, preconceptions, prejudices. What about first-time listeners in Schubert’s day? For a start, most often they would not have been ‘audience’ but ‘performers’ round the family piano, at various levels of proficiency, entertaining themselves in the absence of CDs, streaming, netflix and social media. Perhaps playing and singing one’s way through the oeuvre would be more rewarding.

    Those ‘sucking-up’ pieces for Salieri can be found on YouTube, and in IMSLP, and they’re rather pleasant. For those curious about their original context, an article by Christopher H. Gibbs, on Schubert’s relationships with Beethoven and Salieri, gives details: https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D8G73R92/download

    A sideline on Salieri: at the concert in honour of his fifty years in Vienna, 26 of his composition students (including Schubert) were present, of which 14 were women, 12 were men; “from time to time Salieri treated his pupils, Schubert among them, to ice cream, which was obtainable from a lemonade kiosk in the Graben”. The more I read about Salieri, the more I like him (and his music is not bad, either).

  • In his 31 years Schubert wrote over 600 Lieder, sometimes several a day. From “Erlkoenig”, not the first but written at 18, the average is high. A normal lifetime would have made the task harder. Richard Capell’s classic book, “Schubert Songs”, is a good guide.

    The two ensemble Lieder, “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” a near yodel with clarinet; and “Auf dem Strom” with French horn, are notable. I’d want to include the songs for male chorus, some with guitar or piano, one with four horns (“Nachtgesang im Wald”), and the exquisite “Nachthelle” for high tenor solo. One song, “Der Taucher”,occupied Fischer-Dieskau for an entire LP side if he didn’t omit any verses/

    There are worse ways to pass time in isolation. I like the idea of Bach’s antatas, of which many are lost, as he wrote four complete liturgical years. After repeating Schubert’s cycle a few times, I’d move on to Carl Loewe’s ballads. Kurt Moll, Hermann Prey, Fi-Di, and especially Hans Hotter are a good start, with “the Ruined Mill”, “Edward”, or Loewe’s “Erlkoenig”, like Schubert’s his Opus 1. The hardier could try Hugo Wolf.

  • ==Perhaps playing and singing one’s way through the oeuvre would be more rewarding.

    Exactly – learn to play and /or sing

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