Hall: Chamber Music Hall
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One Instrument, Many Worlds
The hurdy‑gurdy is an unusual instrument – both stringed, bowed (though the ‘classical’ bow has been replaced here by a special mechanism set in motion by a crank) and equipped with a keyboard. Its body shape is close to that of a... guitar. A true musical curiosity. Once an indispensable tool of wandering singers, it was also popular with the aristocracy. The old ‘wheel fiddle’ has sung many a sad and bloody ballad. Matthias Loibner’s treatment of this instrument is versatile. This legendary Austrian artist, compared even to Jimi Hendrix because of his expressive manner of playing, once abandoned his composition and conducting studies for the hurdy‑gurdy and for the last more than 20 years has cultivated the old vielle à roue tradition in a highly original fashion. His artistic visions hold a place for such masterpieces of Romantic lyrical lied repertoire as Franz Schubert’s Winterreise (in which the hurdy‑gurdy successfully replaced the piano accompaniment), as well as his own music, written under the influence of everyday life events as products of observation, a kind of subtle artistic diary. The hurdy‑hurdy can also form one whole in team with the trumpet and percussion as Brot & Sterne.
The World of Sadness
Winterreise – one of the greatest masterpieces of the Romantic lied repertoire, a cycle of 24 songs – has no equals, no precedent and no continuation. Had Schubert left no other music behind, these extraordinary songs would have secured him a place in the pantheon of music history. He composed his Winterreise in two ‘leaps’, the first 12 songs – in February 1827, and the rest – 8 months later, in October. The two parts were published separately by Tobias Haslinger – the first on 14th January 1828, the second (revised by the composer in the last days of his life) – on 30th December 1828, several weeks after Schubert’s death. This extraordinary musical setting of poems by the soldier‑ poet Wilhelm Müller (who also died prematurely aged 33) became a key symbol of Romantic art. The songs are about the passing of time, unfulfilled love, being rejected and misunderstood, about hopes and (most of all) about disillusions, passing away, death – perhaps the finest expression of the pain of living, the common denominator of all 19th‑ century art. These moods are present in many of Schubert’s works, but it is in Winterreise that they attained the pure, once could say – adequately sublimated form. The cycle was written for voice and piano. However, several years ago Matthias Loibner decided to ‘translate’ or paraphrase the piano part for hurdy‑ gurdy, inspired by the last of the songs: “Der Leiermann” (“The Hurdy‑ Gurdy Man”), whose title and most of all texture was a catalyst for his concept. The hurdy‑ gurdy served itinerant musicians in Europe for centuries. But what does Schubert’s masterpiece have to do with those wandering beggars who sang strange, sad, sometimes dramatic and bloody stories? The idea may seem doomed to failure, and still its effects proved amazing and highly successful.