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“Schauerliche Lieder”: Schubert’s songs and his contemporaries

Carousel Image 3Date: Monday 29 September
Time: 4-5pm
Venue: The Old School, Building G15, Maze Crescent, University of Sydney.


Michael Halliwell – baritone
David Miller AM – piano

Scene und Arie des Orest – Gluck: Iphigenie auf Tauris
Ganymed (D 544)
Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren (D 360)
Orest auf Tauris (D 548)
Der entsühnte Orest (D 699)
Der Zwerg (D 771)
Der Neugieriger (D 795/6)
Der Leiermann (D 911/24)
Der Doppelgänger (D 957/13)
Die Taubenpost (D 957/14)
Erlkönig (D 328)

The early performance practice of the Lied has received much attention in recent years, but this has generally focused on technical aspects such as keys, tempi, notation, articulation etc., rather than the way that the voice was used. This presentation will address the polemic surrounding the representation of emotion in the early Lied and how this debate is reflected in two increasingly polarised early performing styles: a ‘declamatory’ vocal approach as opposed to a more ‘lyrical’ approach – the one regarded as more ‘emotional’ and the other more ‘musical’. The composer, through the performance of whose work this debate was initiated, is Schubert, and it is by means of an examination of the artistic relationship between Schubert and his first major interpreters, the celebrated operatic baritone Johann Michael Vogl (1768-1840), and the accomplished amateur baritone Carl Freiherr von Schönstein (1797-1876), that the major issues will be investigated.

The German Lied evolved in the late 18th century out of small-scale performances, usually in the home or other small venues. The volkstümliches Lied, often arising out of the Singspiels, were strophic songs with simple keyboard accompaniments and melodies. C.P.E Bach’s songs of the mid-18th century influenced later composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in this genre. At the same time (late 18th century) the poetic ballad form emerged, modeled on the popular ballads of England and Scotland and embraced by Schiller and Goethe. Composers who engaged with form include Zumsteeg, Reichardt, and Zelter. These two musical strands combined most importantly in the songs of Schubert. The performance of the Lied as it developed in the early 19th century was still strongly influenced by an 18th century aesthetic, but was increasingly challenged by the rise of musical Romanticism and a changing view of the way emotion could be represented in music; the development of the sonorous capacities of the new pianoforte was crucial in this process. Schubert’s songs epitomize this turbulence. There are several contemporary accounts by both performers and observers of the performance of Schubert’s songs in which these aesthetic questions were discussed. Lieder had been primarily sung by amateurs, and it is through Schubert’s desire that his songs be interpreted by someone of the professional stature of Vogl, that the compositional as well as performance demands was raised to an unprecedented level. While Vogl’s performances were greatly admired by some, there were others who objected to the excessive declamation and emotionalism, and the smoothly lyrical style of von Schönstein (the dedicatee of Die schöne Müllerin) was the model. Of course, these debates carried on right through the 19th century.


Equally at home in teaching opera, singing and the history of music, Michael  Halliwell has presented master classes in Cape Town, Singapore and Hong Kong, and has published widely in the field of music in literature. He is currently Associate Professor of Vocal and Opera Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium. Prior to this, he was principal baritone for many years with the Netherlands Opera, the Nürnberg Municipal Opera and the Hamburg State Opera; and he sang in many European cities including London, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Moscow. He took part in several world premieres and appeared frequently at major European festivals in opera, oratorio and song recitals. He has sung over fifty major operatic roles, including Don Giovanni, Papageno, Count Almaviva, Gugliemo, Posa, Germont, Gianni Schicci, Ford and Escamillo.