Schubert: Winterreise

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Alpha,Fineline
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor), Arthur Schoonderwoerd (piano) • Thomas Oliemans (baritone), Bert van den Brink (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Alpha 101 ¥ FL 92409
Two new Winterreisen – in an already very crowded landscape. The easeful lyric tenor of Hans Jorg Mammel soars above the springing step and stinging accents of Arthur Schoonderwoerd’s accompaniment on an 1810 Johann Fritz fortepiano. The voice recreates the desolation and bleakness so uniquely captured in the tenor register – for which the cycle was originally conceived – even if Schoonderwoerd at times revels just a little heavy-handedly in the rich palette of his Viennese keyboard. It’s a somewhat over-resonant recording acoustic, too.

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Mammel’s singing, though, is word-lively throughout. In a song like ‘Ruckblick’ he takes the temperature of every consonant as the words become bruised against the storm-tossed piano part. The closest reference point here would be to the tenor Christoph Prégardien’s fine recording (Teldec), accompanied with rather more subtlety (though also on a Fritz fortepiano) by Andreas Staier.

The team of Thomas Oliemans and Bert van den Brink are as laid-back as Mammel and Schoonderwoerd are intensely engaged. Oliemans has a light, elegant baritone – it comes as no surprise to read that he has studied with Pierre Bernac. But he is too content to articulate diligently within a legato line, and there is only cool engagement with the ardour of the words. There’s no sense of increased momentum, for instance, in ‘Erstarrung’, and the slack pitch and rhythm make ‘Wasserflut’ almost a lullaby. Sometimes the voice even misses the pain-point in weak intonation at the top of a phrase. Both singer and producer would have done with an exacting producer or coach – they produced this recording themselves.

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It’s difficult to give a single benchmark recommendation: in the baritone register, both Wolfgang Holzmair with Imogen Cooper (Philips) and Matthias Goerne, in a memorable live Wigmore Hall recital with Alfred Brendel (Decca), offer revelatory performances. But if I had to live with just one, I’d go for the tenor register, and Peter Schreier’s uniquely insightful 1994 performance on Decca with András Schiff. Hilary Finch