Schubert: Winterreise

Anthony Clarke
Limelight (Australia)
star onstar onstar onstar onstar on

‘A highly impressive Australian collaboration’

Australian tenor Steve Davislim has built his career largely in Europe, but fortunately for us, is able to return to his homeland to fulfil a six-CD recording contract with Melbourne-based independent Melba Records. In this disc he is partnered by another Australian building a formidable international career, pianist Anthony Romaniuk. The recording is of Schubert’s second and final song cycle, Der Winterreise, on which Schubert completed work just days before his early death, from syphilis, when only 31. That early and agonising death is a key to the song-cycle, which presents Schubert in his bleakest mood. Yet while the wandering protagonist of the song-cycle looks squarely at and beyond death, there is great beauty here too, as the dying composer seeks to find some sort of solace in his despair.

Davislim’s clear tenor voice is perfectly suited to this work. He has a satisfyingly strong baritonal register which gives a suitably dark shade to his reading, while a youthful liveliness illuminates those few moments of joyful exuberance which Schubert allows himself. Romaniuk’s partnership is harmony itself; overall, this is as fine a reading of this cycle as you can find on CD. This disc is a hybrid SACD, which means it can be bought and enjoyed by people with conventional CD players, while the full audio resolution will be heard by those with a Super Audio CD player. On my SACD player, the recording was revelatory—an invisible recording, the medium forgotten as if the listener was alone with the performers.