Schubert: Winterreise

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor)Andreas Staier (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-18824-2
More than forty recordings of Winterreise now exist. Every Lieder singer is compelled, sooner or later, to leave new tracks in Schubert’s snowy landscape of the soul. The composer’s friend Johann Mayrhofer wrote of Schubert, at the time when late in his illness he encountered Müller’s poems, that ‘winter had descended on him’. And this is surely one of the most bleak performances in the catalogue.

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The plangent timbre of Christoph Prégardien’s tenor, and his fine, clear enunciation within an immaculate legato line, is thrown into relief by the short, bleached resonance of this particular fortepiano. In Andreas Staier’s ever-sensitive fingers, it can also set up a shuddering tremolando for ‘Einsamkeit’ and a truly burning velocity in ‘Rückblick’.

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Prégardien’s meticulously thought-through performance yields uniquely compelling moments. Yet there is a reluctance to colour or modulate the voice between the polarities of numbness and intense emotion, a disinclination to step for one second outside the planned interpretative framework. This lack of a sense of second-by-second engagement, or of a degree of spontaneity of response, left me with a certain feeling of detachment. A stranger he arrives and, finally, a stranger he departs. And a palpable chill, at every level, is left behind. Hilary Finch