Thursday, August 12, 2010


Today I was listening to Schubert's "Gretchen am Spinnrade" -- or, if you want to sound like someone out of the Victorian age, which I often do, "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel." Schubert wrote this song when he was 17 and it is all about hormones gone wild. Gretchen is sitting at the spinning wheel and thinking about this guy who has knocked her socks off and she gets carried away and when she thinks of how he kisses her the spinning wheel stops. Then it picks back up, bit by bit, as she recovers herself.

Goethe wrote the poem but that was Schubert's idea, the sound of the spinning wheel and then the spinning wheel stopping. Above is a picture of the young Schubert. He has rather a charming look.

Renee Fleming does a good job with it. I like that spinning wheel moving fast. I don't like it when people drag this song. And here is old-time soprano Emma Eames. I am throwing this in because it has the poem and the translation.

I love how this girl sings it, when she gets to the part about "und ach, sein Kuss!" His kiss! The way she stands there. This is like a play. You have to feel the character. Which, let us not be naive, we all have. The pianist does a great job, too, with the last note.

This is a great song for young singers because Schubert was only 17 when he wrote it and it is about that time in your life. Here is a Russian girl singing it.

You have to wonder what Schubert would have thought at the idea of the song he wrote when he was 17 being sung 200 years later in Moscow, in America, everywhere.

You have to wonder what Schubert's family thought when they heard this song. His father, a schoolteacher, he was no dummy. He must have recognized something in it. Imagine how they looked at it going, holy cow.

What have we got here.

I am not giving this exhaustive thought today but it seems there were two composers who were perfect at 17, they were fully formed. Schubert was one and Mendelssohn is the other one I am thinking of. Mozart was great at 17 and wrote some beautiful things but he still had growing to do. Mendelssohn ...

... was himself.

To have written the music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at 17. That famous Wedding March.

His parents were more sophisticated than Schubert's parents but there must have been that look in their eyes too. Holy cow. What have we got here.

It boggles the mind.


  1. I love Elly Ameling's Gretchen. Her recording of it with Jörg Demus is my favorite.

    Mendelssohn could have stopped writing after "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and still have been historically important. That piece and the string octet he wrote the year before are better than what some composer's put out in a lifetime! The only piece I would miss is the Hebrides Overture, which he wrote only a few years later.

  2. ... His BOYISH look reminds mois of-a-PREVIOUS lover!!! LOL!!!

  3. You're right: Mendelssohn was the youngest genius of them all. He wrote the Octet at age 16!

  4. That is incredible about the Octet. Think of what most people are like at 16 ... ahahahahaha