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"Music of the World" Entrance exam: Schubert's "Winterreise" intercultural

11/25/2020 by Susanne Schmerda

Schubert's song cycle “Die Winterreise”, which thematizes the timeless motif of the homeless wanderer, newly combined with Persian poems and Middle Eastern sound meditations: the composer Maximilian Guth and his Asambura ensemble have dared to build this unusual bridge: a classical chamber orchestra that has been expanded to include Persian musical instruments . We also experience singing with two singers in German and Persian, whereby the Schubert songs by Wilhelm Müller and the Persian song settings revolve around the same experiences as love, loneliness and alienation.

Image source: © Decurio

"Music of the World"

Entrance exam: Schubert's winter journey intercultural

Right at the beginning, instruments connect the musical worlds: bass flute and marimba, clarinet and strings, the Persian santur zither, the sounds Oud and Tar. Then follow Persian words about being on the move and after almost nine minutes of a colorful sound procession, the first Schubert song can be heard , in German and with a familiar piano.

Existential loneliness

"I moved in as a stranger" is what Franz Schubert and his lyricist Wilhelm Müller say, "Here I am a prisoner of wanderlust" in the Persian poem by Mehdi Akhavan Sales. The parallels to this existential loneliness are obvious, both protagonists are soul mates in their eternal wanderings.
It is a game with the familiar and the foreign that Maximilian Guth and the Asambura Ensemble celebrate with great sensitivity. It works so well that the musical cultures merge seamlessly with one another. Exciting breaks and accents included.

The states of mind may be similar in the German and Persian texts. But Schubert's Winterreise thrives on extreme fluctuations in emotions, the Persian poetry, on the other hand, is an often worn sound meditation. Which, despite all the melancholy, sometimes comes across as a fiery Balkan klezmer.

Maximilian Guth

There are many different interpretations of Schubert's “Winterreise”: with classical singers of all voices, an extension of the piano version to include a chamber ensemble, in jazz adaptations or interpreted by actors.
But the new look at this work, which clarinetist, composer and music mediator Maximilian Guth throws here through his interreligious dialogue and the inclusion of Persian musical culture, should be unique. With the 19-member Asambura ensemble, he not only internalized Schubert's cosmos deeply, but also thought it further.

Search for home

In the last song, the “Leiermann”, texts and musical cultures are united for the first time: both singers sing together and enter into a dialogue with their typical instruments. The calls and touching singing of Mehdi Saei, who was trained in Iran, are fraught with pain. And Yannick Spanier also answers him warmly and emphatically with a beautiful, powerful voice.

The winter journey as a symbol for the search for arrival and home. As the hope of a heaven in a foreign country that "may wear the same color" as in the homeland that was left behind. This is what Medi Akhavan Sales says in the poem. It is these essential issues of uprooting and the deep desire to belong that are felt to be similar in all cultures and at all times.
This is what makes this “intercultural” “winter journey” by Franz Schubert, Maximilian Guth and the Asambura Ensemble across time and boundaries in 77 minutes of play impressively and enchantingly soundly clear.
A moving, brave album that broadens horizons and ears!

Schubert's "Winterreise" intercultural

Asambura ensemble
Yannick Spanier, Mehdi Saei, vocals
Maximilian Guth, direction and composition

Decurio DEC 004