Lecture at St. John's to focus on how music changes one's mood

January 29, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We all know that music initiates intense changes of mood. But how?

How did Franz Schubert craft the desolation felt by young Gretchen, who spins out her sad tale of lost love as her spinning wheel turns so incessantly in "Gretchen am Spinnrade"?

What is there in Schubert's music that evokes that ever-present sense of running water in his song cycle "Die schone Mullerin" ("The Fair Maid of the Hill"), or the numbing loneliness of the organ grinder who appears in the final song of "Die Winterreise" ("Winter Journey")?

That aesthetic question will be posed and answered Sunday afternoon by St. John's College tutor Elliott Zuckerman, who will present a talk, "Music by the Yard: Streams, Spinning Wheels and Organ Grinders," under the auspices of the Caritas Society, which endows emergency financial aid for St. John's students.

Admission to this 3 p.m. lecture-demonstration -- to be held backstage at Key Auditorium with the audience seated around the college's magnificent Bosendorfer piano -- is $25.

"Romantic composers often express themselves in repeated patterns," says Zuckerman, whose lectures on his beloved Chopin have been a hallmark of his Caritas Society appearances.

"They turn to these patterns whether they're re-creating nature explicitly, or merely suggesting nature's moods in more abstract ways."

Zuckerman, who has taught at St. John's since 1961 and is also a pianist, will develop this theme further as he performs Schubert's heartbreakingly beautiful G-flat Impromptu. The "Berceuse" and a pair of etudes by Chopin will demonstrate how Schubert's expressive style proved such an inspiration to composers of the next generation.

"I intend to quote a little Wordswsorth as well," said Zuckerman, whose doctorate in European cultural history from Columbia University well suits him to make such artistic connections. "The continuous sounds of nature heard in Schubert are really at the heart of all romanticism."

Reservations: 410-268-7531

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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