Schubert: Winterreise

Thomas Baltensweiler
Das Opernglas (Germany)

From the other side of the globe, a new Schubert CD has come to Germany. The Australian label Melba Recordings – the name being a reverence to the legendary soprano Nellie Melba – produced “Winterreise” with tenor Steve Davislim. Of course, the Australian is not a stranger to Europeans. For several years, he was part of the ensemble at the Zurich opera, where he performed the roles of Almaviva in Rossini’s Barbiere, Tamino, Don Ottavio and Ferrando. Performances in Germany brought him to the Staatsoper Berlin or to Hamburg among others – and it is apparent that he had acclimatised himself there very well, because the recording does not reveal his origins. Not only has Davislim mastered perfect enunciation, he has also developed a distinct appreciation of the text’s meaning. As well as imparting a profile to the text with accentuations, the singing itself reveals an elevated sense of the words. Colourful nuances, bright and dark shades correspond in a striking manner with the linguistic meaning.

The sound of Davislim’s voice is fetching throughout the performance. The timbre has a dark, warm foundation; his middle voice appears well developed and his high voice lighter toned … He handles the dynamics in a flexible, but never affected manner and this can be generally said about his style. The vocalist takes his time in a measured way, and he does not perceive the rhythm as a corset, when he needs to take a breath for example; he never employs drastic expressions: The performance is marked by an inner calm – an impression that is enhanced even more by the recording technique. Much resonance is added to the voice, but at the same time it is very present. The pianist Anthony Romaniuk’s accompaniment is smooth, almost with impressionistic grace in the more delicate sections.