Even though all of us vocalists have spent many long class periods in German diction singing it over and over, I still find “Der Lindenbaum” From Winterreise by Franz Schubert to be a very lovely song. To summarize (very) briefly, it is a song about a man and a Linden tree that has been a central part of his life. It is a symbol of his emotional and spiritual growth. At the beginning of this strophic poem, the poet sets a very lovely scene with flowing fountains and the like. Schubert obviously composed this in a major key, the key of E major to be exact. There is nothing a great interest in the harmony at this beginning point of the song (mm.9-24), it is mostly I’s and V’s with a couple of unresolved… V/V’s? All I can say about the V/V’s is that perhaps Schubert did it intentionally so as not to let us fall into the security of the major key, because after the first 25 measures/ two stanzas, he switches to e minor. This happens to reflect the ominous nature of the text: “I had to pass it again today in the dead of night. And even in the darkness I had to close my eyes”.
Then, as the workbook states midway through strophe 5 there is a prolonged bVI chord (m.49 and on). I found this chord to be upsetting and very ominous. It really made you want the key to return to a “normal” E major. The fast-paced sixteenth note motion in the bass gives it a swooping feeling, like the wind in the text.
In terms of text painting elsewhere in the song, I was surprised that Schubert didn’t do more for the word “rauschten” or rustled. When reading the poem I assumed that at that part it would be a bit more jarring. I guess Schubert wanted a more serene sound at that point. The text mentions the tree calling to the man, and at that point the key switches back to major providing a warmer beckoning tone.
If I were to perform this I would definitely kick the tempo up a notch! I was about to die of boredom during parts of this song! Ugh! Albeit, the slower tempo help create a nostalgic feel but does not do to much for entertainment. Other than that, I feel that this is a good performance.