Lecture and performance series looks at three major composers

Courtesy Photo
                                Michael Tracy

Courtesy Photo Michael Tracy

When Austrian composer Franz Schubert died in 1823 at the early age of 31, he left behind quite a legacy — over 600 secular vocal works, seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music.

That kind of genius intrigues island musicologist and amateur pianist Michael Tracy who will present a lecture, accompanied by live performances, on the songs of Schubert at 4 p.m. Sunday at Vashon Center for the Arts.

“The other part (about Schubert) that intrigues me,” Tracy explained in a recent interview, “is that when he died — one year after Beethoven who was 57 — nobody knew him. He was unknown and yet 12 years later, Franz Liszt, the greatest pianist, is performing Schubert’s work on stage.”

Schubert began his productive but short-lived career tutored as a soprano in the school that today is known as the Vienna Boys’ Choir. By the age of 16, he wrote his first composition that set to music a section of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s magnum opus, the play “Faust.”

“Gretchen am Spinnrade” (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) is incredibly emotional and beautiful,” Tracy said. “The music resembles the sound of a spinning wheel. Any soprano would want to sing this.”

Indeed, singing the piece on Sunday will be island soprano Emily Belshaw, who lived in Germany and speaks the language. Other singers will include Hugh Davis and Gary Koch. Pianists Christopher Overstreet and Tracy will accompany the singers.

When Schubert first wrote the song, very few composers were using poetry in their work. Schubert knew many poets in Vienna and according to Tracy was “on top of the poetry scene in Germany, which set the stage for German lyric poetry.” At age 18, Schubert wrote his well-known and beloved composition, “Ave Maria” with the text from a poem by Sir Walter Scott. Later, Schubert changed the lyrics to the prayer for Mother Mary.

Tracy’s decision to combine explanations of Schubert’s work with live performances arose out of experiences he had while living in New York City, his home for many years before moving to Vashon in 2011. He often hosted house concerts in his Manhattan loft and discovered that the small environment made a difference for the audience.

“I saw that people were moved by the performers especially if the singers talked first,” Tracy said. “I’ve been doing house concerts on the island for the past several years with violinist Gary Welch, playing Mozart to Piazzolla.”

Tracy said he chose Schubert because he has always loved his work and because Schubert’s songs make him unique as a composer.

“Almost no one had written the art song — putting poetry to music — before Schubert,” Tracy said. “Then Liszt and Schumann wrote art songs, Berlioz, Strauss, Wagner and Mahler. With 600 songs by Schubert, there are so many to discover. It is a treasure chest of incredible beauty.”

More in Arts

Tickets are on sale now for The Posies Duo show

The band celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2018 and the re-release of several classic albums.

What’s Happening Jan. 17 – 24

Music, art, storytelling and “travels with the self.”

Get jazzy with players from acclaimed high school band

The Roosevelt Jazz Band comes to Vashon Jan. 12.

Kids can rock out at a show by Caspar Babypants

A family show will play at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Vashon Center for the Arts.

Let these local humorists tickle your funny bone

Show starts at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at the Red Bicycle Bistro Sushi.

Pop-up sale will feature Middle Eastern food and fashion

The spirit of the souq will come alive on Saturday

Art appreciation: Felted sculpture and whimsy at Hastings-Cone Gallery

Monica Gripman creates astounding work while dreaming of establishing a studio space for artists.

Curtain’s going up on bigger than ever Nutcracker

For Vadne White, it’s that time of year — when late at… Continue reading

Local band will play the Bike on Friday

Some’tet will play a free show at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at The Red Bicycle Bistro Sushi.

The holidays gets the jazzy treatment in concert

Two Northwest acts will strut their stuff on Wednesday.

Van Redeker Band to play benefit for Land Trust

Join the Van Redeker Band for an intimate evening of music from… Continue reading

Island singers come a-caroling for good causes

On Friday, dozens of talented islanders will give the gift of song… Continue reading