Schubert: Winterreise

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: INA Memoire
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
CATALOGUE NO: IMV 058
With hundreds of performances and no fewer than ten studio recordings (including three for radio), no artist was ever more intensively involved with a musical work as was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Winterreise. But just when you thought that there could be no more F-D Winter Journeys lurking in the archives, along comes this French Radio recording made at the 1955 Prades festival. As the note reveals, the church suffered a momentary power failure during ‘Der Lindenbaum’, which has been ‘borrowed’ from a 1953 Berlin Radio recording made (in a noticeably different acoustic) with pianist Hertha Klust.

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As you might expect, this Winterreise has much in common with the 1955 EMI studio recording. With his voice in its first, heady bloom, Fischer-Dieskau gives a performance unsurpassed in its abandon, its taunting bitterness and its massive, youthful anguish. No singer before him had ever probed the text as searchingly, or used such a vast palette of colours. True, there are moments of what some will hear as melodramatic over-emphasis. But more than in that 1955 studio recording, the startling extremes of expression – say, the hysterical anguish at the climax of ‘Der greise Kopf’ – here seem completely spontaneous. Gerald Moore is as always a perceptive partner, though the rather unfocused piano recording does his beautiful cantabile touch no favours. My favourite Fischer-Dieskau Winterreise remains the more restrained, rueful 1979 version with Barenboim. But this newly unearthed performance demands to be heard, and not just by F-D completists. Richard Wigmore