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A love affair gone wrong

A marriage of voice and piano brings heartbreak to the ears this weekend as baritone Will King and pianist Nicholas Kovacev will grace the living room at Tiromoana, at Wainui.

King will perform the Schubert song cycle Winterreise, or Winter Journey, a work of 24 songs by Franz Schubert, to poems by Wilhelm Muller. Kovacev will accompany him.

The famed English composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten said Schubert’s artistry challenges the performers.

“One of the most alarming things I always find, when performing this work, is that there is so little on the page. He gets the most extraordinary moods and atmospheres with so few notes. And there aren’t any gloriously wishy-washy arpeggios to help you. You’ve got to create the mood by these few chords. He leaves it all very much up to the performers.”

Both Nicholas and Will attended the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University, studying Bachelor of Music with Honours and Master of Musical Arts, respectively.

The cycle of songs is the expression of a love affair gone wrong.

A young wanderer’s beloved has broken off their relationship to marry a richer man, leaving him despairing and alone with his thoughts, which travel through dark territory as he traverses village and country settings after leaving her house.

The work was composed in two separate parts in 1827, the year before Schubert’s death, making the terminal illness from which he was suffering one obvious point of reference.

The piano serves as more than mere accompaniment: it often acts out the role of the external surroundings through which the singer travels.

The music is both allusive and austere.

Will said Winterreise was a profound work dealing with despair in a totally absorbing way.

“For some listeners, it can be difficult to listen to as a result. Performers are drawn in by its heartfelt observation of the human condition, but also the cathartic nature of its unrelenting sorrow.

“All that makes a traditional narrative is stripped away, with the story having unfolded before the first song has even begun.

“Subjects such as these are taboo in our society: mental health and specifically depression are hard topics to broach in everyday conversation.”

Today we are encouraged to find solace in our friends and seek professional help. The un-named wanderer has no respite. No family or friends, and nothing left to live for, said Will.

“What we see therefore is not an external, but rather an internal narrative. It can be chilling, haunting, and even triggering certain emotions for both performers and for an audience.”

The show will start at 2pm this Sunday at Tiromoana, 41 Winifred St, Okitu.

Tickets are $25 on the door and entry is free for students.

A WINTER HEARTBREAK: New Zealand School of Music graduates Will King and Nicholas Kovacev will treat ears this Sunday with a performance of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise at Tiromoana. Picture by Kate Bennett