Schubert: Winterreise

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Dorian
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Victor Braun (baritone), Antonin Kubalek (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DOR 90145 DDD
With close on 57 varieties of Winterreise produced since recording began, and with at least 33 versions currently available, any new exponent of Schubert’s most-recorded song cycle has to be on his or her mettle. The American operatic baritone Victor Braun is the latest to dare to add his name to the catalogue. His experience in Lieder is not vast, but this is an immediately engaging performance of warm, supple phrasing, where the words take their natural place in long, broad-hewn lines.

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Braun never looks death quite in the face; the frisson of terror which even Schubert felt on hearing his own songs never really chills the spine. But the rough edge of Braun’s baritone brings to this cycle of rejected love and annihilation that vein of nagging anger and anxiety which made his 1985 Peter Grimes at Covent Garden so memorable.

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Braun is not, alas, well supported by either his accompanist or his engineers. The spongy accoustic successfully absorbs what little detail there is in Antonin Kubalek’s frustratingly bland accompaniment. It is as if he had systematically erased every stinging accent from Schubert’s score. Impossible, then, to recommend this as the single Winterreise for anyone’s collection; but, for the ardent magpie, an interesting addition. Hilary Finch