Schubert: Winterreise

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition (US)

Winterreise is certainly the most harrowing song cycle in the entire literature. It haunted Schubert, whose premiere of the work to his inner circle of friends created nothing but perplexity, so unremittingly excruciating are the tone of these poems, hopeless, hapless, and almost a chronicle of a man losing his very soul. Even the normally cheery voice of the composer (who almost always sang his own songs first) was surprisingly destitute in tone and bleakly menacing in its refusal to allow any break of light into these darkly winter storms, a winter that never ends.

As late as one week before his death the composer was still putting finishing touches on these pieces, so it is quite evident that of all his works we might consider Winterreise to be the most personal. Certainly they solidify the composer’s reputation as a bona fide romantic. There are many versions of this work on the market today, and any lieder singer worth his (and sometimes her) salt must try them. This new one, in spacious surround sound and enclosed in a very fine production package from Melba, has much to offer…there is the excellent tenor of Mr Davislim , a full yet rounded voice that seems to have its greatest strength in precisely the middle register that Schubert luxuriates in most of these songs. He has studied the works and feels the intimacy of each, yet also is able to convey the few reversals of temperament when the tone changes to moments of hopefulness (before inevitably turning again to the dark side)…So this is a Winterreise that has much to offer (and I cannot tell you how great the sound is) and is able to offer a unique and interesting point of view … oh, that sound!