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Conor Biggs' Schubertreise diary, day one

I thought it might be interesting to see how I construct a programme from day one. Each recital lasts about an hour, is sung from memory and takes three months to prepare.

Monday, December 8th. I generally start researching the programme for the following recital the day after the première of the preceding one. Yesterday for example saw the performance of Schubertreise XIV in Bever, a programme which included Schubert's first (remarkably good) song, "Hagars Klage", as well as dozens of settings of poetry by Friedrich von Matthisson, one of the staple poets of Schubert's early years.

Although I have a reasonably good internal ear — by which I mean I can hear pretty much all of the harmonies of Schubert's songs by looking at the score — I think I might be able to speed up the process by recording the voice part and the accompaniment and play them back on my iPod dock in the kitchen while chopping onions. Pretty rough and ready it is too, but it gives me a good idea of the sound world I'll be trying to create in my head while studying the score on my way into work with the Flemish Radio Choir in Brussels. We'll see.

There are a number of songs that are familiar to me, but not the dreaded "Leichenfantasie", one of Schubert's first, long and difficult to boot. That and memorizing the first couple of verses of Schiller's lugubrious mastodon bring the day to a close.

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