Schubert: Die Winterreise
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Die Winterreise
PERFORMER: Werner Güra (tenor), Christoph Berner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902066
How wonderful to be surprised by joy at what must surely be approaching the 100th Winterreise in recording history! Werner Güra’s light, lyrical tenor is in immaculately nurtured voice for this deeply considered performance. And its fresh and individual revisiting of every phrase is brightly focused by the timbre of Christoph Berner’s 1872 fortepiano, its articulation both ice-bright and, where appropriate, chillingly numbed.
In the very first steps of this Winter Journey, Güra and Berner incarnate that oscillation between the storm-blown momentum and the hushed backward glances of weariness and regret which shapes the entire cycle – and, indeed, all the music of Schubert’s last years.
Throughout the performance, the listener is moved by each precisely imagined shift in register and nature of movement – the voice tracking exactly Schubert’s own transcription of weight and word. Hushed half-voice recreates the sudden silence of a frozen river, then darkens into the depth of a rocky cleft. And it’s fascinating to hear what Güra makes of Schubert’s ubiquitous line-repetitions, adding a shadow of tremulous dread here, a redoubling of rage and a bite of irony there.
Both Güra and Berner are acutely sensitive to the shifts of pace both within and between songs. And the elusive mobility of breath and gait within the ever-circling repetitions of ‘Der Leiermann’ seal the imaginative strength and musical accomplishment of this outstanding performance. Hilary Finch