Franz Schubert: Winterreise. © 2022 harmonia mundi musique sas

CD Spotlight

Beauty and Emotional Depth

GEOFF PEARCE recommends Schubert's 'Winterreise', performed by Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis

'... everything that I could wish for ...'


Schubert's Winterreise, composed in 1827, is, to my taste at least, the greatest song cycle I have heard. I have many recordings of this work as I love it so much. It goes through a whole gamut of emotions and mental states, and one needs a singer who can truly get inside the emotions and context of the words without over-cooking them. Some singers have recorded the work many times at various stages of their careers, and the results can vary a lot depending on their own emotional journeys. The choice of the pianist co-artist is absolutely crucial in Lieder, and never more so than in this work.

Listen — Schubert: Frühlingstraum (Winterreise)
(track 11, 1:54-2:51) ℗ 2009 harmonia mundi musique sas :

The settings of Wilhelm Müller's poems deal with the rejection of a young man by a young lady, and the various emotions that this stirs in him: sometimes anger, heartbreak, despondency, indeed a whole variety of emotions that are triggered over the course of his journey. Ultimately he gives up the will to live. The whole work is imbued with restraint, sadness and gloom, but this never descends into self pity. The final five songs are emotionally devastating, the last being particularly spectral.

Listen — Schubert: Der Leiermann (Winterreise)
(track 24, 0:01-0:57) ℗ 2009 harmonia mundi musique sas :

Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis are completely on the same page on this harmonia mundi reissue and, to be honest, it will be one of my favourites. I feel that they have the right amount of detachment that is required to truly portray the beauty but also the bleakness of this journey. I guess some people may wish a wider range of emotions, but that can so often spoil it for me. As much as I love Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, for example, the recording he made with Alfred Brendel does just that. This recording does not, and I find the overall impression and journey is everything that I could wish for in a recording of Winterreise.

Listen — Schubert: Einsamkeit (Winterreise)
(track 12, 0:00-0:57) ℗ 2009 harmonia mundi musique sas :

Padmore produces a voice of sheer beauty and flexibility, and Lewis is the true dream of an associate artist, always finding the right balance, finely judged tempi and touch that paint the same picture as the singer. Such partnerships are very rare and require meticulous detail from the recording engineer.

Listen — Schubert: Die Krähe (Winterreise)
(track 15, 1:24-1:59) ℗ 2009 harmonia mundi musique sas :

For lovers of this cycle, and Lieder in general, this is a must have in your collection. Every time you hear it, the more detail you discover.

Copyright © 11 February 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia








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