Winterreise – A Winter’s Journey

A winter – themed post on this frosty morning. Excerpts from my book of illustrations inspired by the Schubert song cycle.

In 2016 I was inspired to create these illustrations by the wonderful imagery contained in Winterreise. This timeless song cycle for voice and piano, composed by Franz Schubert, was published in 1828. It consists of a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller. I produced a set of illustrations which are presented alongside Muller’s words, translated into English by Celia Sgroi. The resulting book can be purchased direct from myself. The original illustrations and giclee prints are also available. Email me for further details.

The illustrations are now also available to view on diewinterreise.net. Click here for the direct link, or go to the website and click on the Art tab. The site is an amazing resource for all things Winterreise, including discography, texts and papers, along with other illustrations and artworks.

Below are some of the illustrations from my book, along with excerpts from the poems.

I cannot choose the time

To begin my journey,

Must find my own way

In this darkness.

Frozen drops are falling

Down from my cheeks.

How could I not have noticed

That I have been weeping?

In a charcoal-burner’s tiny house

I have found shelter;

But my limbs won’t relax,

Their hurts burn so much.

You, too, my heart, in strife and storm

So wild and so bold,

Feel first in the silence your serpent

Stir with burning sting!

So I travelled my road

Onward with sluggish feet,

Through bright, happy life,

Lonely and unrecognised.

A light does a friendly dance before me,

I follow it here and there;

I like to follow it and watch

The way it lures the wanderer.

Ah, a man as wretched as I am

Is glad to fall for the merry trick

That, beyond ice and night and fear,

Shows him a bright, warm house.

And a loving soul within –

Only illusion lets me win!

My way has led me

to a graveyard;

Here I’ll stop,

I told myself.

You green and mourning garlands

must be the sign

That invites weary travellers

into the cool inn.


Song: Schubert: The Winterreise D911: I good night
Artist: Christoph Prégardien & Andreas Staier
Licensed to YouTube by WMG (on behalf of Teldec Classics International)

The book was first published in 2016 by LKL Publishing and is available direct from the author.

Illustrations © 2016 David Armitage

ISBN 978-1-5262-0322-9.

Translation courtesy of Celia Sgroi © 2005


I have also illustrated many successful childrens books, such as the Lighthouse Keeper series and Queen of the Night. See Illustration in the header menu.

Individual original abstract paintings have also been inspired by particular pieces of music. You can see more of these in the Music Box category, under My Artworks.

Music Box – Des Baches Wiegenlied

 

Die Schöne Müllerin is a song cycle of 20 songs composed by Franz Schubert. They move from heady optimism to tragedy. A young miller wanders happily through the countryside, soon following a brook which leads to the mill AND the beautiful miller’s daughter. Her response to his approaches is luke- warm and worse, is rapidly supplanted by a green clad hunter. The miller becomes obsessed with the colour green.

In the final song cycle, Des Baches Wiegenlied, our lovelorn suicidal hero gives himself up to the tender clutches of the brook as it meanders through the bleak countryside. The moonlight is reflected back from the flowing water.

David Armitage
Des Baches Wiegenlied, Dye and acrylic on canvas, David Armitage.

It is the brook who sings the lullaby as it embraces the heartbroken miller.

 

Good night, good night
until everything wakes
sleep away your joy, sleep away your pain
the full moon rises,
the mist departs,
and the sky above, how vast it is.

 

Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795: XX. Des Baches Wiegenlied · Christian Gerhaher · Franz Schubert · Gerold Huber Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin ℗ 2003 Bayerischer Rundfunk Producer: Wilhelm Meister Lyricist: Wilhelm Müller

 

David Armitage has also produced an illustrated book of ‘Winterreise’, Schubert’s other great song cycle. Follow the blog to see more posts on Winterreise, Music Box, paintings, memoirs and more!

David Armitage
Illustration from Winterreise, David Armitage.

A Musical Revelation

30 or so years later… Our cottage in a Sussex village.

It is late, wife and children have gone to bed. I am in a small galley kitchen clearing up after a splendid meal with some friends. Radio 3 is employed to keep me company. My toil with the dishcloth stopped abruptly as I was plunged into a manic scherzo, gloriously anarchic stuff. It stops, starts again, stops, repeats, does it all again. Mad but terrific music. Who on earth was this? The bell-like scherzo gave way to a sublime adagio, deeply felt, almost Schubertian in its profound sense of yearning. By now, dishes done, I was sitting on the floor, keeping company with the remains of a splendid 20 year old port.

As is often the way of the classical tradition, the fourth and final movement involves a triumphant resolution of many musical arguments. ‘Right, sweetie’, I thought, if you can extend, equal, or beat what came before, I have stumbled across a musical voice that is of the highest order. Why had I got to thirty something and never heard it? He delivered, my God, did he ever. By the time we got to the closing pages I resembled a quivering bundle that could have been the result of the contents of a boiled-over pot that had oozed to the floor. An emotional wreck, contemplating an experience that will live with me for the rest of my days, and , with any luck, beyond.

Same music, Radio 3, about 10 years later, this time on the car radio as I made my way to somewhere about 2 hours from home. After roughly about one and a half hours had elapsed, I was coming again on the closing pages of this sublime musical argument. At this point I became dimly aware of a flashing blue light in my rear view mirror. Oh God! What to do? I pulled over and indicated by a series of gestures that… ‘could the officer wait two minutes until my musical journeys end?’ I desperately hoped my finger gestures and facial expressions would not be misconstrued. Tricky. I guess the noise issuing from the car confirmed my request. Shortly after, I emerged from the car, red-eyed with tears and looking visibly shaken. The young officer, bless him, assumed my demeanour and apparent distress was caused by a traffic violation. He politely told me to get my brake light fixed ASAP.