Schubert: Winterreise

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WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
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.


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