Ghost Variations

By Jessica Duchen

The strangest detective story in the history of music

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Schumann's May

Dear friends,

Warmest greetings from the Ghost Variations Shed, where May has brought us some much-needed sunshine and a publication date: the book will be out on 1 September.

That will be in time for an exciting round of associated concerts in which the violinist David Le Page, the pianist Viv McLean and I will present our programme of readings and music based on the book. Dates for your diary so far include 7 September at St Mary's Perivale, 4 October at Music at 22 Mansfield Street and 18 October at the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society, Leighton House. If you saw the RSC Live Shakespeare celebratory programme on the BBC on 23 April, you'll have noticed Dave leading the orchestra and heard him playing some beautiful solos. 

Back to today. I'm often up before 6am these days. The manuscript is back from its editor minus several chapters - and rather than lying awake wondering how to adjust to the new-look, leaner and definitely more streamlined version, it seems sensible to get up and get on with it. I have until next week to put the finishing touches to it, but as the same seven days also require the writing of three articles and a two-day trip to Vienna, there aren't quite enough hours to go round.

The blue skies, apple blossom and bluebells in the garden put me in mind of more Schumann beyond the Violin Concerto. In one central chapter of Ghost Variations, Jelly persuades a young German admirer (who's fictional) to recite her some love poetry. He picks Heinrich Heine's 'Im wunderschönen Monat Mai', from which Schumann created the first song in his great cycle Dichterliebe. As I plough on, joining up the loose dots, I thought we could share this wonderful music, sung here by the tenor, Jonas Kaufmann. 

There's another Ghost Variations reason, by the way, for bringing Dichterliebe to your attention - but more of that another time soon...

Enjoy! 

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