Composing while Death is Knocking on the Door

The Austrian painter Egon Schiele painted Death embracing a maiden in 1915/16.
The Austrian painter Egon Schiele painted Death embracing a maiden in 1915/16.

Death – one of the mysteries of life. A recurrent subject for painters, sculptors, poets and composers. The Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was obsessed by this subject, perfectly in line with other creative geniuses during the German Romantic period. In 1817 he set to music “Death and the Maiden”, a poem by the writer Matthias Claudius.

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Painting the Sea with Colour and Music

The sea - a favourite subject of painters and composers alike. © Charles Thibo
The sea – a favourite subject of painters and composers alike. © Charles Thibo

If Pyotr Tchaikovsky is my all time favourite composer, Claude Monet is my all time favourite painter. He and others of his time from the school of the “Impressionists”, who tried to render in their paintings the immediate and ephemerous effects of light: shadows, reflections by the sun, flickering of waves, distortion by fog etc. While other painters had a political or religious message or tried to express an artistic ideal (romanticism for example), Monet and his friends painted nature as they saw it and when they saw it, that is, outdoor and on the spot, a recurrent subject being the sea.

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Addicted to Schubert and Romanticism

Reading Rilke. I am fascinated by the Romantic Period. © Charles Thibo
Reading Rilke.© Charles Thibo

Schubert. Schubert? That’s the title of a biography of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and it highlights the fact that Schubert has been totally underrated during his lifetime – the early 19th century – and is still subject to many prejudices and misunderstandings. He has become famous for his “Lieder” (songs), as he set into music many, many poems. The best known are probably “Die Forelle” (The Trout; text by Christian Schubart), “Der Erlkönig” (The Erlking; text by Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe) and the song cycles “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise” (The Lovely Miller’s Wife, Winter Journey; poems by Wilhelm Müller). Schubert was a prolific composer (>1500 works) and is one of the top representatives of the German romantic period.

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