Music faculty recital presented “Winterreise”

The Washburn Department of Music presented a faculty recital of Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” 7:30 p.m. March 2 at White Concert Hall.

The featured artists were tenor Andrew Childs, associate dean, humanities chair and music professor at St. Mary’s College, and pianist Shiao-Li Ding, piano professor at Washburn University.

Childs has sang over 100 performances of nearly 30 operatic roles for Seattle Opera, Amato Opera, Springfield Opera, various new music workshops and others. Previously, he taught at the Yale University School of Drama, Missouri State University and the Thames Valley Music School at Connecticut College.

Ding, a soloist and chamber musician, has given concerts in North America, Austria, Germany, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and China. Premiers of contemporary composer works include a group of piano etudes by Unsuk Chin.

“The projection was the best I’ve had,” said Ding. “It’s a monumental work by Schubert. He only wrote two song cycles, and this is one of them, and this one is more often sung by artists.”

It was the first time Childs sang at Washburn. He and Ding presented a set of Beethoven’s songs together last year, and they thought it would be a good idea to collaborate.

“She’s [Ding] a tremendous collaborator, and we had a wonderful time working together, and very glad to make a connection with her both professionally and personally,” said Childs. “This is a wonderful space and I feel very grateful to sing here.”

“Winterreise,” or Winter Journey, is a song cycle of 24 pieces for voice and piano by German poet Whihelm Muller and Austrian composer Franz Schubert. The pieces included “Gute Nacht” (Goodnight), “Die Wetterfahne” (The Weathervane), “Gefror’ne Tropfen” (Frozen Tears), “Erstarrung” (Chill Torpor), “Der lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree), “Wasserflut” (Flood) and so on. During the recital, the English translation of the German text was projected on a large screen from the stage.

“It’s a very challenging piece for singers,” said Ding. “I wouldn’t say the piano accompanied part is that difficult, but the collaboration between the singer and the pianist takes lots of time.”

“Winterreise” speaks to the themes of human alienation and loneliness, in the times of faceless interconnectivity. It provides a unique experience for the audience willing to risk exploring the depths of human emotion in order to find hope. Many people came to the recital in the winter night, including Washburn students, Topeka residents and students from St. Mary’s College, about an hour away from Topeka.

“We are hoping that they take from the piece a real sense of hope,” said Childs. “Even though it’s a piece about isolation for the individual in the piece, we take from it a lesson that this is something to be avoided, and I hope it’s a piece that brings people closer together.”

Shuting Ye, senior music major, came to the concert with her other friends.

“I was really into their recital,” said Ye. “I loved the way that they performed Schubert and his work, very delicate and beautiful.”

“Winterreise” was intended to inspire people not to despair, but challenges people to reassess their lacking compassion and the need for genuine human contact.