Looking back now on my process of interpreting lieder as songs, it was a constant search consisting of small steps into the material, of finding my way through the lieder. It took time and is still taking time. With each concert, with each repetition my interpretations are changing, because I'm changing and so is the quintett, the band. Sometimes we are surprised of how much the recordings are different now compared to recent live versions, some tempi got faster, some slower; sometimes it almost feels as if the songs themselves decide where they want to take us and we as the band just have to follow their lead. Through playing the songs again and again, they are constantly changing and we are changing with them, through them. I started to wonder what we do when we interpret? What are we searching for?

This chapter is about the project The Great European Song Book that holds 55 Kunstlieder (arranged by mathias rüegg) interpreted by myself as songs leading to three albums A Winter’s Journey, The Schumann Song Book and The Brahms Song Book. To point to the connection of the crossover dimension of the Kunstlieder by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms the project is called The Great European Song Book as a reference to The Great American Song Book that is filled with songs by composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter and is a main source of songs for jazz musicians. 

When I first started working on the lieder/songs*, I had no idea of the impact this would have on me. Although I had played Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven as a child on both piano and flute, classical music was a universe I did not feel I really belonged to.  I crossed over into a very different practice, approaching Schubert’s song cycle as I would approach jazz songs, pushing my limits as a jazz interpreter as I made Schubert’s Winterreise my own. I sat there in front of these signs and symbols on paper, in front of words and notes somebody left behind, and that were waiting to be repeated and discovered; signs that told me a story and at the same time waited for me to tell a story with and through them. I started by humming the melody, playing it melody on the piano while humming and singing along, and after repeating and repeating each phrase over and over again  I slowly started the translation process, one word, one phrase at a time.

It was necessary for me to translate the poems for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, in general it helped to gain distance and escape the maybe immediate comparison to the ‘original’.  Secondly because every language carries its own rhythmic patterns, which especially becomes audible in poetry. The piano accompaniment is tailor-made for the poem, the German words and their accentuations. So if the rhythmic approach of the arrangement changes, it impacts the poem. And to me the different rhythmic approaches between classical music and jazz has been the most significant difference in my process of approaching Lieder as songs. For example, the so-called Swing Feel is a specific way of phrasing based on a ternary subdivision of a quarter note, which is a core element in jazz music but it is not in classical music. When singing the arranged version of the song in German, it felt like two different conceptions of rhythm are meeting and I could understand why Mackie Messer* had to become Mack the Knife before it found its way into The Great American Song Book. And thirdly, every translation is already an interpretation and gave me, as the interpreter, the chance to dive even deeper into the process of interpreting. I had the chance to interpret the meaning of the poems and share this interpretation through the translation. My translation had to fit the arrangement.

This process gave me the opportunity to connect with the words and lyrics in a different way and in ways I hadn’t done and experienced before. It helped me to learn, repeat and study every bar on different levels - the poetry, the sound of the words in German, the sound of the words in English, the sound of the words combined with the sound of the melody. With translating, I was already practicing and getting to know the arranged version of the song.The more I think about my process, the more it becomes clear that every step of the way I was enwrapped in repetition, constantly asking myself, how? How should I repeat this word, this musical thought, how should I not only translate the language but translate one style of interpretation to another, one key to another key...and so forth. This turned out to be one of the most important steps in the whole process of finding my way through these songs and finding my interpretation within different sound ideals, and practices.


My own work with Schubert's lieder begun in 2011. EinsamkeitWegweiser und Lindenbaum were the first three Lieder that I started to work on. They belong to the Lied-cycle Die Winterreise. The cycle is based on a cycle of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller written in Winter 1822/23, mostly in the classic form of "Volksliedstrophe". Franz Schubert set Müller's poems to music between February 1827 and  October 1827. It is said that Wilhelm Müller never heard or even knew about Schubert's compositions of his poems. The poems of the Winterreise are rooted in the tradition of the Romantic Wanderlied. The title is said to be inspired by Johan Georg Jacobis travel journal called Winterreise from 1769 und Ludwig Uhland's eighth Wanderlied Winterreise from 1813. Müller describes the walk of a wanderer through winter landscapes, that leads more and more into solitude and alienation of the protagonist from society. Dissapointed, heart-broken the wanderer sets out into a winter's night (Gute Nacht) leaving the house (Die Wetterfahne), the village's fountain (Der Lindenbaum) and the town (Rückblick) behind, passes a village where barking dogs drive him out (Im Dorfe), gets lost and finds himself exhausted on a graveyard (Das Wirtshaus), finds rest at a charcoal burner‘s house (Rast) and at last meets the Leiermann


The whole cycle ends with a question, with two questions to be exact, asked by the wanderer to the strange, old man:


Soll ich mit dir geh'n?
Willst zu meinen Liedern
Deine Leier dreh'n? 


Should I walk with you?
Will you grind your organ
To my songs too?



In my opinion, these two questions evoke at once hopelessness and hopefulness. On the one hand the wanderer actively reaches out and is looking for connection with the Leiermann, who is also – like the wanderer – alone and living a life struggling, outside of the village. On the other hand these questions show how these men accept the fact that they are both lost, freezing, alone. The wanderer is offering his songs to the strange, old man 'Wunderlicher Alter' and in doing so, he proposes the joining of two things: music and word, Leier and song. Are the outsiders finding a way of being alone together – together alone? 

The Leiermann is the only song I sing as a whole in German. I also begin the cycle in German but halfway through Gute Nacht , the quintet, switches to the arrangement initiated by the bass playing an ostinato groove on G. We transposed the lied from D-minor to G-minor to match the key of the arrangement, so that we could make a direct connection from playing the lied as it is written for voice and piano to the arranged version in the quintett and in a different style. I sing the first two verses in German til 'Nun ist die Welt so trübe, der Weg gehüllt in Schnee' then the bass starts to play and I switch to the arrangement and continue to sing in English.We chose to end the adaption with the last song of the cycle by coming back to its beginning, to the ‘original’ and the poem written in German. With it we want to point the listener towards the version that is the foundation of our interpretation. It is meant as a gesture of admiration and respect towards the written score.


The arrangement by mathias rüegg leaves Schubert's composition formally and melodically untouched, but changes its harmonic, tonal structures and introduces ternary rhythmic derived from the jazz vocabulary. The most obvious changes are  the translation of the poems to English and the changes of keys, as well as the included instrumental soli over harmonic movements that are based on the progressions of the original songs and extended with chord structures and scales from jazz. For example in rüegg's arrangement of Gute Nacht - Good Night (transposed from D-minor to G-minor) he uses the chord description "Gm aeolian" to indicate not only the voicing but also the scale for the pianist.


As you can see, when looking at the chord symbols like G/D Ebo Em D/F#,  in the original arrangements (handwritten scores on this page), his style of notation throughout is addressed to musicians coming from a jazz context.

To show a part of the process, that I described I include the following video of rüegg's arrangement of Robert Schumann's Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen from Dichterliebe op. 48. I play my interpretation of this lied/song on a Wurlitzer, first singing the song in English before I switch to German. 

The Schumann Song Book

Before mathias and I started to work on Robert Schumann’s lieder we took a detour with another project called my poet’s love. Inspired by Schumann’s cycle of songs Dichterliebe we wanted to create our own cycle of songs, in which I chose the poems and he would set them to music. I chose seven poems by Heinrich Heine and seven poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and translated them to English. mathias then composed the music to the poems and arranged them for the same quintet as in A Winter’s Journey. The idea was to create our own Dichterliebe. I also wrote two poems for this album as if they were letters dedicated to Heine and Rilke. In my process of interpreting Schubert’s Winterreise, the starting point were Müller's poems and the melodies by Schubert. This time my process started with words, just words; with the poems that were later on set to music and combined with a melody. After we released my poet’s love we returned to Schumann’s lieder and his Dichterliebe

The process of finding my interpretations of Schumann’s lieder felt so much easier to me after interpreting the Winterreise. The struggle and challenge that I felt when I first started out with Schubert’s lieder had now become a foundation that I could lean back on. The structure of the repertoire felt familiar, the poems felt familiar, both the musical language and the language of the poems I had already worked with. But this time the arrangements by rüegg were based on a different idea. He wanted to also always include parts of the ‘original’ within the arrangement. At first I even sang the ‘original’ part in German and then switched to the song version in English within one arrangement. We premiered this program with me sometimes singing both versions within one arrangement. It didn’t quite work. I struggled with switching between languages and styles within one piece of music and we had to change something. It didn’t feel like one song, one unity but different pieces of musical fabrique that we tried to weave together into one cloth but the pieces kept falling apart. Another reason was that I was feeling very insecure about singing certain parts in a more classical way and in German. I felt as if I had two speak two languages at once and in one of them I could not quite say what I wanted to say. Also sometimes we would start with the ‘original’ part and then we would repeat the same part in an arranged version, the led to too many repetitions in one lied/song. But we didn’t want to let go completely of the idea to include parts from the written score and so we adapted these parts for the flute. This way the parts were there but the switching between singing styles was gone and the structure of the song became clearer. That is why on this album I play the flute more often. After I let go of the switching between classical and jazz styles in one lied/song, I found my way through the songs and we were ready to go back into the studio and record the second album for The Great European Song Book.

From Winterreise to A Winter's Journey

When I switch to another language, my phrasing and the sound of my voice changes as well, even though the arrangement remains the same. When I sing in German I tend to sing more statically, I hold each phrase longer. When I sing in English, my phrases are shorter. For example, in the English version "When" pause "this song" pause "starts playing" I divide one part of the first sentence in three small phrases whereas in German I'm thinking "Hör ich das Liedchen klingen" as one long phrase instead of three short phrases in one phrase. The final version for the album of this song is in English.

The Brahms Song Book

I started listening to piano pieces by Johannes Brahms when I was hiking through Spain on my personal 'winter journey' on the pilgrim's way camino de santiago towards Santiago. I chose only one album to take with me on my journey: Ten Brahms Intermezzi played by Glenn Gould. Without realizing that I would have started this trilogy with Schubert‘s Winterreise and would finish it with Brahms. When learning and studying the lieder by Brahms I had the feeling that he laid a special focus on rhythmic structures in his piano accompaniments of the songs. Many of rüegg’s arrangement stuck to these rhythmic structures of Brahms’ piano accompaniment and the ransfered them almost "untouched" to a different instrument, into a ternary rhythmic approach. For example, on the first page of Kein Haus, Keine Heimat you'll find Brahms' 'original' - on the second page of the pdf you see that rüegg's arrangement uses the exact rhythmic structure of Brahms' piano accompaniment. In the first to bars two eight notes then two counts rest, he then uses the off-beats in the third bar in the right hand for clapping and the bass  and so on, while I start to sing. The bass plays the rhythmic pattern of the accompaniment, the clapping underlines this structure - repetition in a changed context. Another development in this album is in the instrumentation, on this album I play the bass flute which brings a different colour than in The Schumann Song Book and A Winter's Journey. At the end of the In the mentioned song mathias rüegg arranged the piece for three bass flutes, of which I recorded each part.

Kein Haus, keine Heimat [No house, no home]  from fünf Lieder, op.94)

from the album The Brahms Song Book (2019) released on Lotus Records

Der Leiermann from Winterreise op.89

performed by Julia Pallanch

in the arrangement by mathias rüegg

score  by mathias rüegg from my personal archive

score  by mathias rüegg from my personal archive

Widmung [Dedication]


You are my essence, you‘re my heart

You are my joy, my counterpart,

You are my world, in which I live in,

My heaven you, to which I give in,

You are my grave, in which 

Forever I my sorrows gave!


You are my ease, you are my peace,

You are from heaven sent to me,

That you love me makes me feel worthy,

Your gaze has changed just how I see me,

You lift me up through loving me,

My good soul, my better me!


This is the cover of the booklet about The Great European Song Book - a Kunstlied-Trilogy, an adaptation of 55 Kunstlieder into songs by Julia Pallanch and mathias rüegg that includes three albums A Winter's Journey (2017), The Schumann Song Book (2017) & The Brahms Song Book (2019) released on Lotus Records. Find below three songs from each album, my translations of the songs and the handwritten scores by mathias rüegg from my personal archive. 

The Brahms Song Book

Find the whole cycle including pdfs, soundfiles and poems right here.

The Schumann Song Book

 From A Winter's Journey

Find the whole cycle including pdfs, soundfiles and poems right here.

Find the whole cycle including pdfs, soundfiles and poems right here.

Gute Nacht [Good Night] 

As stranger I arrived,
stranger I shall leave,
I came and May was kind to me
With many flowers and bouquets.

I met a boy who spoke of love,
Our wedding day was planned.
But now the world seems overcast,
Deep snow lies on the land.

I cannot choose the time to leave
My journey it must be now,
And though I walk in the darkness
I find my way somehow.

A shadow
drawn by moonlight
Will walk by my side,
And on the white meadows
I seek the deer’s trails.


Why should I stay here longer,
until they drive me away,
Let stray dogs howl
Outside their master’s house.


Love wanders where it pleases,
God made it in his sight
It breaks the heart it seizes,
And so my love, good night.


I won’t disturb your dreaming,
And spoil a sleep so pure,
You will not hear me leaving,
I’ll softly close the door.

And on your
gate I’ll write good night
As I am passing through
So when you chance to see it,
You’ll know I thought of you.

Little Red Rose 


Saw a boy a little rose,

Red rose on the heathside

Lovely, young in morning light

Had to run up closer.

Spellbound by her beauty,

Little, little rose so red,

Red rose on the heathside.


Said the boy: I'll pick you now,

Red rose on the heathside

Said the rose: I‘ll prick you back,

So that you won‘t forget me,

I shall not surrender.

Little, little rose so red,

Red rose on the heathside.


Yet the wild boy picked the rose

Red rose on the heathside

Red rose faught back with her thorns,

But it didn't help her,

Had to let it happen.

Little, little rose so red,

Red rose on the heathside.

Ich grolle nicht [I don't complain]


I don‘t complain, though I may die of pain,

Love forever lost!I don‘t complain.

For you may shine like diamonds clear and bright,

I see your heart remains in darkest night,

I always knew.

I don‘t complain, though I may die of pain.

I saw you while I was dreaming,

I‘ve seen the night that through your heart is streaming,

I‘ve seen the pain that pierces through your heart,

I‘ve seen, my love, how sad you truly are.


Wegweiser [Road of No Return]


Was vermeid' ich denn die Wege,
Wo die ander'n Wand'rer geh'n,
Suche mir versteckte Stege,
Durch verschneite Felsenhöh'n?


Habe ja doch nichts begangen,
Daß ich Menschen sollte scheu'n,
Welch ein törichtes Verlangen
Treibt mich in die Wüstenei'n?


Weiser stehen auf den Straßen,
Weisen auf die Städte zu.
Und ich wandre sonder Maßen
Ohne Ruh' und suche Ruh'. 


Einen Weiser seh' ich stehen
Unverrückt vor meinem Blick;
Eine Straße muß ich gehen,
Die noch keiner ging zurück. 

No House, No Home


No house, no home,

No wife, no kid,

I‘m tossed like a feather

Through weather and wind!


Once up, and then down,

Blown here and then there,

World, if you ignore me,

Well, why should I care?


My jacket's still whole

And my glass full of gin!

World, just go your way,

I won‘t ask where you‘ve been?

Heidenröslein [Little red rose] from Volkskinderlieder WoO 31

Widmung [Dedication] from the song cycle Myrten op.25

Ich grolle nicht [I don't complain] from the song cycle Dichterliebe op.48


from the album The Schumann Song Book (2017) released on Lotus Records

from the album The Schumann Song Book (2017) released on Lotus Records

from the album The Brahms Song Book (2019) released on Lotus Records

Kein Haus, keine Heimat [No house, no home]  from fünf Lieder, op.94)

Ich hab im Traum geweinet  [In my dreams I've been crying]

from the song cycle Dichterliebe op.48

from the album The Brahms Song Book (2019) released on Lotus Records

from the album The Schumann Song Book (2017) released on Lotus Records

from the album The Brahms Song Book (2019) released on Lotus Records

from the album A Winter's Journey (2017) released on Lotus Records

Liebestreu [Faith in love] from Sechs Gesänge op.3

Wegweiser [Road of No Return]

Gute Nacht [Good Night] 

from the album A Winter's Journey (2017) released on Lotus Records

Wirtshaus [The Tavern]

from the album A Winter's Journey (2017) released on Lotus Records

I'm a pdf including 60 pages 

Translations by Julia Pallanch, Julian Schoenfeld, Anne Gabriel

Translations by Julia Pallanch, Julian Schoenfeld, Anne Gabriel

Translations by Julia Pallanch, Karin Kaminker

Wirtshaus [The Tavern]


Auf einen Totenacker
Hat mich mein Weg gebracht;
Allhier will ich einkehren,
Hab ich bei mir gedacht.


Ihr grünen Totenkränze
Könnt wohl die Zeichen sein,
Die müde Wand'rer laden
Ins kühle Wirtshaus ein.


Sind denn in diesem Hause
Die Kammern all' besetzt ?
Bin matt zum Niedersinken,
Bin tödlich schwer verletzt.


O unbarmherz'ge Schenke,
Doch weisest du mich ab ?
Nun weiter denn, nur weiter,
Mein treuer Wanderstab.

Ich hab im Traum geweinet  [In my dreams I've been crying]


In my dreams I’ve been crying,

I dreamt you lay there in a grave,

Then I woke up, and my tears

Kept streaming down from my cheek.


In my dreams I’ve been crying,

I dreamt that you‘d walked out on me.

Then I woke up, and I cried

Still for a long time.


In my dreams I’ve been crying,

I dreamt that you still were with me.

Then I woke up, still I am crying

Leaving floods of tears.

Faith in Love


"Oh drown, deep down your grief,

My child, in the sea, in the deep blue sea!"

A stone may stay on the ocean's bed

My pain will show again.


"And your love, that you carry in your heart,

Tear it up, let it go, my child!"

Though a flower may die, once it is picked,

True love won't break like this.


"'And faith, and faith,

T'was only a word, let it go out with the wind."

Oh mom, though the rock erodes in the wind

Still my faith it shall endure.