Roderick Williams (baritone); Christopher Glynn (piano)
Signum Classics SIGCD531
Here is the greatest song cycle, indeed one of the supreme works of art, a great singer at the height of his powers, and an admirable accompanist – exactly what I’ve been waiting for. The only difference from almost all other recordings of Schubert’s masterpiece is that this version is sung in English, a new translation by Jeremy Sams, whose experience of translating, mainly opera texts, is enormous.
In his translator’s note, Sams writes ‘So our hero is modern. An angry young man, an outsider. Nothing romantic here… that’s why his language has to be modern, detached, straightforward.’ Well, no. Wilhelm Müller may not have been a great poet, he may have used many of the Romantic clichés, but what he wrote was what inspired Schubert. Radically to update it, in contemporary English colloquialisms – especially when as clearly enunciated as they are by Roderick Williams – is to create an unprofitable friction between words and music which is the nearest I have come across in Lieder to Aida set in Milton Keynes.
This Wanderer speaks the language of a yuppie who has just been made redundant and is drifting through the wasteland of Canary Wharf. I couldn’t believe for a moment in his sufferings. Others may react quite differently. What I would love to hear now is Roderick Williams, accompanied by Christopher Glynn, who is as fine as any other accompanist, singing Winterreise.