A question of lieder-ship

Classical and Opera
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Indy Lifestyle Online
`Landscape into Song', a season of Franz Schubert's song cycles, featuring the world's best lieder performers and accompanists, has been a highlight of the South Bank Centre's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Austrian composer's birth. The season draws to a superb close this weekend

Born towards the end of the Romantic era, Franz Schubert memorably expressed that movement's infatuation with the power and beauty of nature, and in particular, with the sublime landscape. Although a Viennese through and through, Schubert liked nothing more than leaving the city and traipsing off into the mountains and woods which surrounded it.

Over time, Romantic representations of verdant valleys, soaring peaks and the bucolic lushness of the countryside may have descended into kitsch. But Schubert had the honesty, the love of melody and the ability to create powerful and profound soundscapes which allowed him to transcend the Germanic tendency towards sentimentality. His three- or four-minute songs, with words by contemporary poets and arranged in cycles of a dozen or so, are among the most beautiful creations of the Western musical tradition. Some would say, further, that these "small" works are far more profound than Schubert's larger and superficially more impressive symphonic output.

"The season is a real adventure for the South Bank Centre," says Amelia Freedman, the South Bank Centre's Head of Classical Music. "This is the first real lieder series done in this country, and includes many of the greatest artists in the form."

Already there have been performances by pianists Imogen Cooper and Andreas Haefliger and singers Matthias Goerner and Andreas Schmidt.

But don't feel as if you have missed out, as potentially the best day of the series takes place tomorrow, with performances from up and coming baritone Oliver Widmer in the afternoon, and then in the evening, a recital of the devastating Winterreise by the renowned lieder specialist Robert Holl, which should bring the series to a magnificent close.

Oliver Widmer performs `Der Wanderer' at 3pm, and Robert Holl performs `Winterrreise' at 7.45pm. Both singers are accompanied by the artistic director of the season, Roger Vignoles.

At 2pm there is a lecture on `Schubert's Vienna and the Countryside', by John Warren

Queen Elizabeth Hall, SE1 (0171-960 4242) tomorrow

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