Faculty Retell Tragic German Love Story at Recital

As Eric Perry, Adjunct Instructor in Music, told the devastating love story of a young man trying to win the affection of a miller’s daughter, Perry’s rich, tenor voice rose strongly. Despite the German lyrics, Perry’s rendition of “Die Schöne Müllerin” captivated the audience at Saturday’s faculty recital.

“Die Schöne Müllerin” is a set of 20 songs written by Franz Schubert based on the text by Wilhelm Müller, a German poet, which Perry and Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music, performed this past Saturday in the Timken Room of Graves Hall.

“This particular piece is one of [Schubert’s] most famous, and it’s extraordinarily beautiful. Mr. Perry is a fabulous singer… of German songs, and he has a huge repertoire and sings all kinds of things,” said Walter. “[Die Schöne Müllerin] is obviously a big cycle, and it takes a tremendous amount of concentration and intensity… but within all of the songs there is so much variety [and] so much expression,” said Walter.

According to Walter, each song is central to the story in its own way. The 16th piece, “Der Liebe Farbe”, which translates to “The Favorite Color,” describes the young man’s delight over his love’s favorite color: green. “Der Liebe Farbe” is a serenade in which the lovestruck narrator describes all the ways he desires to be encased in green. Both the vocals and piano contain repeating motifs, reinforcing the young man’s passion for green.

Charles Stacy ’16, an audience member, said, “Schubert cleverly creates a very naturally evolving narrative with the song cycle. After the trials of being in the throes of love… Schubert decides to slowly drift away from melodramatic tones and subtly give life to tiny things like the color green, in context of the cycle’s theme of romance.”

The following piece, “Die Böse Farbe,” or “The Hateful Color,” contrasts the sweet melody of “Der Liebe Farbe.” Rather than describing his love of the color green, the young man disparages it, suggesting that his lover has rejected him. The piano immediately sets the atmosphere of the song with a series of sharp, repeating chords. The piece’s mood oscillates between anger and frustration and despair, which Perry and Walter portrayed through dramatic changes in volume. Walter’s final notes in the piece were sharp and clear, ending the piece abruptly and thus further emphasizing the anger in the young man.

Blake Campbell ’18, an audience member, said, “[‘Die Böse Farbe’] was my favorite. I felt for [the singer], because he was just trying to be with his love and then she rejected him and he was just mad… It sounded very harsh, and his voice felt very harsh because of the sharp consonants.”

The recital closed with, “Des Baches Wiegenlied,” or “The Brook’s Lullaby,” which is sung from the point of view of a nearby brook rather than the young man. The lyrics suggest that the young man has drowned himself in the brook after being rejected by his love. The piano and vocal parts complemented each other to create a lyrical and soothing lullaby.

Walter said, “[Des Baches Wiegenlied] is transcendent… The piano part is very, very simple: absolutely the barest essentials. And most of it is played in the middle of the piano, and yet it’s conjuring up all this stillness and sense of the water lapping around and then this sort of encore coming through in the piano. There’s this insistent accent, this single note and this feeling that it’ll go on forever.”