Schubert: Winterreise

Ralph Lucano
American Record Guide (US)

The young Australian tenor Steve Davislim has been building his career slowly. He’s made many recordings, usually as part of an ensemble, but he’s also given us a disc of Strauss orchestral songs . (The editor raved about it in the last issue: “perfect...exquisite”.) Now, with this Winterreise and a collection of Britten’s folksong settings, he risks exposure in the more austere voice-and-piano repertory.

I haven’t heard the Britten (this issue), but I like his Winterreise very much. The voice is immediately appealing, an easily produced, youthful tenor with a solid bottom (he dives confidently down to the optional low As in the first two verses of ‘Gute Nacht’) and a strong, ringing top. There’s just enough pungency in the timbre to lend it some real individuality. Davislim’s legato is flawless, and he’s flexible enough to take Schubert’s little vocal ornaments in stride. His German is excellent, and he sings the words eloquently, as though he relishes every sound of the language. I like the way he adds warmth and roundness to the voice in response to the text: at “Habe ja doch nichts begangen” in ‘Der Wegweiser’, for example, or at “Je nun, sie haben ihr Teil genossen” in ‘Im Dorfe’. The contrasting sections of ‘Frühlingstraum’ and ‘Die Post’ elicit contrasting vocal colors, and he finds just the right accents for the middle verse of ‘Die Krähe’ (“Krähe, wunderliches Tier”). ‘Die Nebensonnen’ is as raptly, acquiescently sad as I‘ve ever heard it; and ‘Der Leiermann’ is poignant and understated ... Accompanist Romaniuk follows Davislim deftly ... The sound is good ... Texts, translations, and notes are supplied. I rank this very high among tenor Winterreises ...