Thursday, 3 May 2018

Christian Gerhaher sings Schubert's Die Winterreise

Back in the 1950s when I was a teenager, I assiduously copied out and learned the texts of the twenty-four songs that comprise Schubert's Die Winterreise; all of which stood me in good stead for the rest of my life, since I can now sit back and listen to the songs without having recourse to the texts or translations.

It is difficult to imagine what Schubert's small audience back in 1828 would have made of this cycle of songs, where pessimism rules, and where the harmonies of the songs often modulate every few bars (the modulations of Die Krähe always fascinated me). I knew this greatest of all song cycles from my early LPs of Hans Hotter (three LP sides, with the fourth side blank). I then, inevitably, went on to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; since then, there have been many candidates for favourite version, the latest being Jonas Kaufman (tenor). This evening it was back to Christian Gerhaher (baritone) with Gerold Huber at the piano, recorded back in 2001. The pianist is excellent. Gerhaher sings with welcome emotion and really enters into the spirit of this evergreen work; Winterreise is an emotional work — with often quite violent emotions. Thanks to my teenage hard work, I can sit back and enjoy the songs and the words, greatly helped by Gerhaher's clear diction and enunciation. Gerhaher, Goerne, or Kaufman (I never took to Fischer-Dieskau)? Spoilt for choice, but I greatly enjoyed Gerhaher this evening and was completely gripped for 78 minutes.

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