Monday, January 18, 2010

Schubert, Sir Walter Scott & the Aldeburgh Connection

The Aldeburgh Connection
The Lady of the Lake, and other tales
Walter Hall, Sunday, January 24, 2:30pm

Featuring: Anita Krause, mezzo; Christopher Enns, tenor; James Levesque, baritone; Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata, piano; Raymond O'Neill, narrator

The "Schubertiad" was a delightful tradition begun by none other than Schubert himself, who was fond of playing for his friends, who would sing or play along with Franz at the piano. Those evenings of song, chamber music and solo piano works evolved into the type of concert we now know of by this name.

The Romantic is a likable era in general, and Schubert has always been a favourite composer of mine, so I'm looking forward to this Sunday's continuation of the Aldeburgh Connection's annual Schubertiad tradition. They'll be performing Schubert's adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, published in 1810. Schubert began to compose seven settings from Scott's poem in 1825, and they were first performed by singer Michael Vogl, (in both male and female parts), touring with Schubert himself later that year. (Sir Walter Scott's portrait by Henry Raeburn, below.)

The story concerns James Fitz-James, a knight who arrives unexpectedly at the home of a highland chief. The knight falls in love with the daughter of an outlaw, who has other suitors. It gets very complicated, lots of clan politics, but in the end, Fitz-James ends up mortally wounding the highland chief in a fight. The daughter of the outlaw appears with a signet ring, asking for a pardon for her father from the king... who ends up to be Fitz-James himself - King James V. Her father is pardoned, the bad guy dies, and she is able to marry her love (who isn't the king). Something with a happy ending, finally!

Based at the University of Toronto, Aldeburgh Connection is named after Aldeburgh, a small town on the east coast of England where Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier founded the Festival of Music which flourishes to this day. Artistic Directors Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata have visited and worked there for many summers, as have many of the singers who appear with the Aldeburgh Connection.

The Schubertiads are performed in honour of Greta Kraus, a former friend and mentor of the group. Kraus was a renowned harpsichordist and pianist in her own right, as well as playing accompaniment to many fine singers of her time. She was an Honorary Patron of the Aldeburgh Connection - and Schubert was her favourite composer.

The programme includes other Schubert Lieder, with tea and cookies at intermission. See you on Sunday!

(Drawing of Schubert at about 16 thought to be by Franz Schober.)

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