Melbourne tenor Steve Davislim’s recordings of English folksongs plus Schubert’s great song cycle Winter’s Journey is a formidable undertaking, the more so given his performance schedule at major opera houses from La Scala, Milan, to Chicago USA. The dramatic nature of operatic work can be both benefit and trap to an artist. As David Pear explains in the accompanying booklet (with texts), folksongs are about real life, often tough and tragic, moral stories of the ‘brutality of birth, death, unfaithful lovers and the seeming futility of it all’. But they must be treated in an intimate musical style. So must German Lieder.
With artistic and vocal integrity Davislim casts both genres in these recordings in an appropriate scale. His part-Irish part-Asian ancestry provides a rich heritage on which to draw in ranging the spectrum of human endurance encapsulated in the music, folksongs to which composer Benjamin Britten’s settings add a deeper musical dimension, and the tragic impetus of Schubert’s cycle united as it is by the impending doom in Wilhelm Müller’s texts … Pianist Anthony Romaniuk partners Davislim in the Schubert to create a skilfully nuanced, masterly performance of this 80-minute journey through life’s spring into its winter, right to the poignant end.