Note by note

I was asked by a good friend the other day whether, when keying in the notes of a twenty-page song to a Finale file (« Leichenfantasie »), it wouldn’t be quicker to hook up my computer to the (hideous) synthesizer upstairs via a midi programme and play the damn thing. Apparently it’s much quicker, although you need to be on the alert for enharmonic shenanigans, to say nothing of having to re-write polyphonic passages. But speed ain’t of the essence: I like to to get down on my back and tinker with the engine before reassembling the parts. Not that I have to key in every song (small mercies), but it’s actually a good way to learn a song. After all, Bach copied out reams of Vivaldi.

Postcript to the above: transposing a song down makes certain passages singable, but also creates new problems: if a song has a wide tessitura, the singer will often find herself coping with passages that are uncomfortably low. I guess this is one of the reasons that Schubert's first songs are rarely performed.

Almost finished memorizing the text of "Leichenfantasie, one of Schubert’s longest. It may come as a surprise to learn that many of his songs were conceived as drawing-room operas, following on from the idea of the secular cantata so successfully demonstrated by Haydn in “Ariadne auf Naxos”. It has to be said though that not all of Schubert’s essays in this particular art form are masterpieces. “Der Taucher” is well worth a whirl, but I have my doubts about the half hour long “Adelwold und Emma”.

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