Thanks to the generosity of the Melba Foundation, the young Australian tenor Steve Davislim has a couple of most handsomely produced new releases as recital repertoire calling-cards, in what is at present a busy operatic career. Both Winterreise and the Britten folksong settings are given a spacious acoustic, and spacious tempos – the latter, alas, to the long-term detriment of the Schubert.
This is one of the slowest, longest Winter Journeys on record. Choice of tempo alone is not, of course, the problem; but Davislim’s clearly long-pondered interpretation simply lacks the necessary tension between frozen emotion and desperate haste, as internal and external storms drive the desperate traveller ever onward.
In fact, the ratio of tempo to inner intensity is simply wrong. Slower and more deliberate does not necessarily mean more expressive in this cycle, especially when expression is revealed only in verbal emphasis, rather than by any changes of vocal colour or dynamic.
The voice even begins to take the strain of Davislim’s unrelievedly slow pacing, and can sound at times enervated, particularly in his less well-supported high register. The protagonist of Winterreise might long for rest; but the voice must not – and neither must the listener. By halfway through, I was almost ready to give up. Anthony Romaniuk is the patient and loyal accompanist. Hilary Finch