- Winterreise, song cycle for voice & piano, D. 911 (Op. 89)
While it's not unheard of for a woman to sing "Winterreise" (notable recordings include those of Lotte Lehmann, Christa Ludwig, and Brigitte Fassbaender), it remains unusual enough to merit special attention. Hearing a woman's voice in music that's so strongly associated with men takes some initial adjustment, but soprano Christine Schäfer is hugely successful in her recording with pianist Eric Schneider, and by the end of the first song, the listener can settle in, confident in the knowledge that this "Winterreise" is in the hands of outstanding performers. Schäfer's voice is a beautiful instrument, full and secure throughout her range, with burnished tone and a wide spectrum of colors that she puts to excellent use in the varied songs. At least as important as vocal sound, perhaps even more so in this cycle, is the singer's ability to probe the songs' psychological depths, and Schäfer brings a strong interpretative personality to the work. Her performance is marked by an emotional urgency that never sounds rushed, although this version runs five minutes shorter than the average. The way Schäfer colors and shapes the songs highlights the exquisite gradations of grief with which Schubert invests the music. She sings "Die Krähe" almost entirely mezza voce to haunting effect, and the bleached quality of her voice in "Der greise Kopf" perfectly suits the text. Pianist Eric Schneider is an equal partner in creating the sense of malaise and torment, largely through his nuanced phrasing. "Gute Nacht" is marked by extremely subtle hesitations that perfectly reflect the ambiguity of the protagonist's emotional state, and his use of rubato in "Der Lindenbaum" achieves a similar effect. From the first notes of "Frülingstraum," Schneider makes it clear that the merry melody offers only a false hope of happiness, giving the song's ultimate despair an especially poignant inevitability. Onyx's sound is ideal -- clear and open with excellent balance. Schäfer's and Schneider's "Winterreise" is an extremely fine version that should be strong interest to lieder enthusiasts, and it would make an excellent, emotionally engaging introduction for listeners new to these extraordinary songs.
|Label:||Onyx Classics Uk|