LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
PERFORMER: Hans Hotter (baritone), Gerald Moore (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 66985 2 ADD mono Reissue (1955)
Of the great bass-baritone Hans Hotter’s four recordings of Winterreise between 1942 and 1969, this one from1954, now beautifully remastered, is undoubtedly the best, and in many ways a benchmark itself within the recorded history of Schubert’s song-cycle. Compared with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hotter’s is a comparatively “non-interventionist” approach. Individual words are not pointed up so much as subtly shifting moods. And the cycle’s spiritual darkness is there within the covered tones and dark vowels of the voice, sustained and subtly variegated in long, fine lines and lightly-breathed phrases. Hotter’s hushed singing, wonderfully set into relief by Gerald Moore’s accompanying, creates a rare sense of fear, isolation and obsessive melancholy.
Peter Schreier’s Winterreise could not be more different: I treasure both recordings, but find Schreier’s live performance with Sviatoslav Richter, like a poetry-reading set to music in the intensity of its details of articulation, phrasing and pacing, ultimately irresistible and unsurpassed. Hilary Finch