When Franz Schubert was dying, at the untimely age of 31, you'd think he wouldn't have had the energy to compose what would become one of the world's most famous song cycles. But despite ill health and being perennially penniless, Schubert was a born workaholic, scribbling his compositions anywhere and everywhere, on anything from café napkins to those old brown paper wrappers you'd get at the butcher's. In the 10 months before his death on November 19, 1828, Schubert set 24 poems by poet/librarian Wilhelm Muller to music; the result was the magnificent Die Winterreise, a series of mournful but exquisite songs reflecting on life and death. Schubert himself called them “terrifying,” and indeed, their somber nature depressed his friends. But the composer was unfazed. “These songs please me more than all the rest, and in time they will please you as well,” he assured them. Die Winterreise is an immense challenge to singers, requiring the utmost in technique and interpretive power, and the piano accompaniment is equally demanding. But talented tenor Micheal Lee Smith (pictured) and that most compelling of pianists, Mark Robson, will undoubtedly do it justice — and, with an eye to realism, on an early 19th century Broadwood fortepiano, no less. At Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E. Colorado Blvd.; Sat., Dec. 29, 7:30pm; freewill offering. (626) 793-2191, ppcmusic.org

Sat., Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m., 2012

LA Weekly