Schubert: Winterreise

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Paul Lewis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907484

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No icy wind bites through this Winterreise. That is partly due to Paul Lewis’s oddly muted contribution, avoiding many of Schubert’s sharp accents, though he’s effective when water flows through the winter picture. As for Mark Padmore, who has torn at our souls as Bach’s Evangelists, I wondered why, in spite of following closely with the recent Urtext score, I was phasing out of whole chunks. Could it be Schubert’s fault?

After seven songs, I took a diversion by turning to the lyric-heroic Peter Anders in 1945, an interpretation at the opposite pole to Padmore’s musicianly but externally applied emotion. Anders bares wounds so extreme that it’s hard to stay the course for quite a different reason; but you’re never in doubt of the stricken journeyman’s inconsolable condition.

So what would Padmore admirers find to enjoy? There’s his hallowed pianissimos, well matched by Lewis – though the eccentric leaning on and repetition of the grace-note for the final song is bizarre – and his game attempts to open up to anguish, even though a full A flat is still a strain and the lower register rarely tells. But I now hear a worrying spread in the voice, almost a judder in the crucial ‘Das Wirtshaus’.

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A world-weary fray is essential, but let it be artistic. To hear Peter Schreier and Sviatoslav Richter for the whole journey, complete with winter-stricken coughers in a Dresden February, is to be reminded of extremes, more carefully channelled than Anders’s. Nothing less will do. David Nice