The Winterreise Project

An innovative intensive performance course on Schubert’s beautiful and haunting song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey) for voice and piano, explored, as in the composer’s time, through authentic amateur performance.

Authentic amateur performance

The majority of Schubert’s songs were written for amateur musicians, and yet they are performed almost exclusively by professional performers today. Join us for this important exploration to the heart of song, where we reunite Schubert’s songs with their original performers – dedicated amateur music lovers, just like you.

Our Performers

Our students include both performing singers and pianists, and auditor participants. Performers receive over 30 hours of musical tuition, including private and ensemble coaching, masterclasses, and much more. Each contributes 1 to 3 songs to the final joint concert of Schubert’s 24-song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey).

Auditor participants

An engaged audience is an important part of the Winterreise Project. Our Auditor Participants attend all ensemble sessions, masterclasses, and workshops, and provide a supportive audience, and offering crucial feedback through their attention and/or commentary.

What is Schubert's Winterreise?

Learn about Schubert’s fascinating music – and start imagining your own performance.

Why Winterreise?

Learn about Schubert’s writing for amateurs, and how his inclusive approach inspired this and all our art song courses.

Watch our concert video!

Our final student concert was held on 31 May 2015 at the Baumann Centre of Pacific Opera Victora. Follow this link to watch the video!

Our supporters

It takes a village to make music happen. Read about those special people whose gifts made the dream of the WP a reality.

Revitalising Schubert song through authentic amateur performance

The Winter Journey


Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise – Winter Journey – is a hugely evocative group of songs for voice and piano exploring in detail a young man’s reaction to the pain of unrequited love. Across the one-hour cycle, which sets the 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller titled Die Winterreise, Schubert takes his singer and pianist on an extraordinary journey from the fragile tenderness of first love, through rejection, rage, hopelessness, and defiance, to his final transfiguration through his acceptance of his powerlessness against fate.

The Winter Journey of the title of the piece is both a literal and a symbolic journey. In the first song we learn that the young man has been rejected by his beloved. He believed he had real evidence of affection from her, and her mother had even talked of the promise of marriage, but for reasons unknown to him, the plan – if there ever was a plan – has changed. Standing outside her house on a winter night, he sings good night to her with a mixture of tenderness and torment before fleeing into the countryside with his face set against the lashing of the winter wind.

The remainder of the song cycle, which recounts the journey he makes on foot through the frozen countryside, starts as a simple act of escape from painful memories but soon evolves into an extended odyssey of inner experience. Battling against plunging temperatures, menacing animals, and the oppressive, uncontrollable waves of hope and despair, the young man forges onward through the snow toward the point of exhaustion. Death looms, and is contemplated and seriously considered, but the dormant natural world eventually stirs in its coldness and begins to speak back to the wanderer, who hears truth clarified in the rustling of trees, and in the blazing symbolism of a vision of phantom suns.

The wanderer is never released from heartbreak, but, as his inner suffering becomes increasingly abstract, he is gradually moved to understand, and eventually, to accept the cruelty of his fate. By the last song of the cycle, his transformation from innocence to knowledge through suffering is complete. Arriving in a distant town, his own singing is echoed darkly in the vision of an elderly hurdy-gurdy man, who stands barefoot cranking his instrument with frozen fingers in the empty streets.

‘Strange old man’, the young man asks, Will I come with you? Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?’


Texts and translations

A reflective performance course for amateur singers and pianists, and for music-lovers.

Why Winterreise?

Franz Schubert wrote the vast majority of his songs for voice and piano for amateur musicians, and it was amateurs singers and pianists – both men and women – who were the principal performers of his more than 400 songs during the composer’s lifetime and in the years following his death. Today, Schubert’s songs are performed in public almost exclusively by professionals, separating these works from the collaborative, informal – and often very convivial – amateur settings for which they were originally conceived.

Schubert’s 24-song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey) is one of his more extended works, and professional singers and pianists today typically perform the entire cycle in a single performance. In Schubert’s time, however, it was common for amateur musicians to perform only one, or at at the most a small group of the songs, in an evening salon gathering. It was not uncommon for one singer-pianist duo to sing one or two songs before another pair took over, or for singers and pianists to change scores – choosing their preferred keys from the available published options – in a single concert to suit their particular voice or ability at the piano.

The Winterreise Project reclaims Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise for the non-professional musician, while also offering amateur singers and pianists access to the sort of in-depth study of the songs normally reserved only for aspiring professionals. Singers, pianists, and auditor participants on our course will work together on small groups of the songs, just as they would have done during Schubert’s lifetime. Our project will finish with a presentation of the complete 24-song cycle in which each singer and pianist will contribute between one and three songs to the final joint concert.

Join us in admiring these extraordinary performances of Schubert’s haunting song cycle, Winterreise.

Please also visit the collection of videos we have compiled on the Winterreise Project YouTube channel – and add your own.

Final Student Concert

The Final Student Concert of the Winterreise Project took place on 31 May 2015 in the Wingate Studio of the Baumann Centre of Pacific Opera Victoria. We hope you will enjoy this film of the live concert, and that it will both enhance your enjoyment of Schubert’s song, and encourage you in your own amateur music-making. Kathryn Whitney, Anna Cal, and the Collaborators on the Winterreise Project To view translations and biographical information as you watch, follow the link to view the videos on our YouTube channel.
Introduction by Kathryn Whitney
Download Concert Program
Download Translations

Contributing Partners – The Winterreise Project

We are very grateful to the following people, who were contributing donor partners in the Winterreise Project, 2015:

Frances Rosenberg

Andrew Buchanan

Ereca Hassell & The Baumann Centre of Pacific Opera Victoria

Paul Whitney

Hedwig-Clara Exner

Valorie Masuda

Anne Graves

Trudy David

Helmut Burke

Frances Newman

Jennifer Gerwing

Kevin Farris

Stu & Emily Whitney

Jane Moran

Kate Miller

Nancy Staniland

R. Iverson

Elisabeth Wagner

Christina McMillan

Jacky Boivin

Hanna Bendtsen

Lori Webber

The Winterreise Collaborators

Bruce Dutton

Margarita Altamirano

Wei Wu

The Bild Family

Amyrose Gill

Ted & Rae Rhodes

Simon Phillips

Jean Cathro

Tara & Marian Sahota

Karen Smith

Leonard Takoski

Eric Allen

Our Many Anonymous Donors

Number of partners supporting the Winterreise Project


Percentage of fundraising goal met