SCHUBERT & Co.
Editors note: New York based pianists Lachlan Glen and Jonathan Ware are part way into an ambitious project: to perform all of Schubert’s Songs in one season. It takes a village to make something like this happen of course, and it turns out that the Schubert-Village is thriving. Singers and pianists are volunteering their time and passion for the sheer love of the music and the community that Schubert still readily inspires. Jonathan Ware explains how this project came together and where it is going.
After sitting down to enjoy our goulash at the local Czech pub in downtown Zwickau, Germany this past June, my colleague Lachlan Glen and I began talking about our mutual love for German Lieder. This was a typical conversation for us, as we were both in Zwickau for the purpose of accompanying singers at the 2012 International Robert Schumann Competition. As we began to chat, one of us blithely remarked that one could perform the entire corpus of Franz Schubert’s songs, if one had nine months (and a concert per week) in which to do so. Franz Schubert is to the song-lover what William Shakespeare is to the anglophile. His output was enormous; over 600 songs which clock in at over 35 hours of music. This was truly a monumental proposition. After a few moments of stunned silence, during which we both hovered on the brink like a roller coaster at the precipice, we both quietly but excitedly said, “Why not?!”
That day, something called Schubert & Co. was birthed. This is an organization, concert series, and movement of over 55 singers and 10 pianists, dedicated to performing the complete Lieder of Schubert in New York during the 2012-2013 season. Young professional pianists and singers involved in this grass-roots effort include both rising stars as well as those in the finishing stages of their training at institutions such as the MET Opera Lindemann Program, Juilliard, and Curtis. Entirely a labor of love, all of the artists are donating their performances, playing and singing without typical professional fees. In addition to Lachlan and myself, the pianists taking part include Lachlan's and my teachers and coaches at Juilliard, in addition to some of our close colleagues and friends.
Our goal is pretty simple, yet ambitious. We are presenting the complete solo songs of Schubert in a series of 31 recitals in one season. In order to achieve continuity, we are programming concerts by poet. For example, this past weekend we had a program full of ‘imports,’ texts by Metastasio, Shakespeare, Walter Scott and Petrarch. Coming up in December we have several concerts devoted to the works of Schiller.
People ask what it has taken to put it all together – a lot of hard work! We had to simultaneously book singers and pianists, while looking for a venue and searching for a piano for that venue. Thankfully, Central Presbyterian Church (where I am also pianist and organist) offered us the use of their beautiful sanctuary for the majority of the concerts this year. Then we had to search for an instrument and work out rental details and so on. We have very little budget, as well as no administration other than Lachlan, myself and our troupe of singers who have volunteered for certain tasks. Thankfully, Lachlan's brain works like a spreadsheet and he has proven a genius at organizing repertory and personnel for each concert. Also, Google Docs has become a close friend of ours! So far, we have planned through December and are currently working on details for January through May. Of course there are always last minute changes. Occasionally a singer (or a pianist!) or a freak hurricane might cause a particular concert to be postponed or reprogrammed. We have found FLEXIBILITY is of utmost importance in this kind of venture!
Jonathan Ware is a collaborative pianist living and working in NYC. More information about Jonathan can be found here.