First Muse Chamber Music presents

Schubert's Winterreise

Monday November 15, 2021 at 7:30 pm

Nathaniel Watson, baritone

Duncan Cumming, piano

Tickets $25 (purchase here)


First Unitarian Church - 220 Winton Road South - Rochester, NY 14607

(click here for an audio sneak preview)

In our first concert since November 2018, First Muse is pleased to present Schubert's monumental song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey). Baritone Nathaniel Watson shares these comments on the work:

Schubert’s Winterreise is one of the Monuments of the solo vocal repertoire, and certainly THE Monument of the German Lieder repertoire. And that is a vast repertoire! In these 24 songs (settings of the early Romantic poetry of Wilhelm Müller, Schubert’s contemporary) we take a deep dive into the human psyche, guided by the profound musical ideas of the composer very near the end of his very short life. From the opening bar it is a journey downwards, and one could ask, “Why sing such sad songs?” Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the songs help us to touch our own sadness in ways that we didn’t expect. We don’t have to dwell there, but we have to touch it once in a while, as the great artists do regularly, finding their inspiration and their joy. Why watch Hamlet over and over? Why watch La Bohème? Somehow we always come out better for it, appreciating our present, our blessings, and the nature around us, season after season.

Listening to these songs is greatly enhanced by knowing the background and being familiar with the texts beforehand. In Ian Bostridge’s masterful book “Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession,” the very experienced English tenor extemporizes on the poetry and the music, exploring every aspect of life in northern Europe at the dawn of the Industrial Age. Schubert’s world was a very different world from ours, of course, but the human heart has not changed a whole lot. The relatively simple poems become more profound in the hands of Schubert, and many thousands of Lieder singers have been the beneficiaries for almost 200 years!


Canadian-American baritone NATHANIEL WATSON has appeared as guest soloist in hundreds of performances in fifteen countries over the last forty years. Highlights include Mahler's Eighth Symphony in Quebec City with Yoav Talmi, Der Freischutz in concert with the New York Philharmonic and Sir Colin Davis, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Carnegie Hall under Sir Roger Norrington in the conductor's first concert in the USA. He has soloed under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, David Zinman, and Nicolas McGegan, among many others. Mr. Watson, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the Yale School of Music, appears on many recordings, including both of the Bach Passions, Handel's Acis and Galatea, and Barber's Dover Beach with the Alexander String Quartet. His recording of Schubert's Winterreise, with pianist Michael McMahon, will be released in Spring 2022 by Leaf Music.

Pianist DUNCAN CUMMING has performed concertos, recitals, and chamber music concerts at the Kennedy Center, Merkin Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, and the Wallenstein Palace in Prague, among many other prestigious locales. Currently on the faculty of SUNY Albany, he previously taught at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He has commissioned, premiered, and recorded new works for solo piano, violin and piano, and piano trio; and currently performs with the Capital Piano Trio, ensemble-in-residence at SUNY Albany. Mr. Cumming graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College, where he studied with Frank Glazer; he is the author of The Fountain of Youth: The Artistry of Frank Glazer (2009). Further studies were at New England Conservatory MM) and Boston University (DMA).


Accepted proof includes NYS Excelsior Pass or CDC Card.

*Fully vaccinated: Two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson, at least two weeks before the concert


We will be following all CDC guidelines for indoor concert venues, which at this time includes requiring masking upon entry to the venue and throughout the concert even for vaccinated individuals.

To help with keeping our community safe, we have required that all performers and volunteers show proof of vaccination.

Because of the requirement for masking, we will be unable to offer our usual post-concert reception with punch and goodies - you may bring your own water bottle for quick sips that do not include long periods of unmasking.

For more information, contact