Franz Schubert's song cycle Winterreise was composed in 1827, the year before his premature death. The tones of depression and desolation that dominate this setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller might seem to be a reflection of Schubert's own gloomy state of mind as he faced mortality, though the depiction of a lonely wanderer who cuts himself off from the world was a commonplace of Romantic literature and was not necessarily a projection of the composer's emotional state. Even so, Winterreise is not a cheerful work, and performances of it often emphasize a brooding tone, as well as dark sonorities. The way Winterreise is presented by tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Michael Gees on this 2013 Challenge Classics release prevents an easy analysis, for much of the music's darkness is alleviated by the singer's lyrical tone and the accompanist's light touch. Indeed, the sound of the performance and the transparent quality of the super audio recording make this one of the brighter sounding Winterreise performances available, so much so that listeners should sample it to see if it meets their expectations. With that caveat in mind, this is a sensitive interpretation that conveys tenderness and gentleness, and Prégardien's presentation is a refreshing, if unexpected, change of pace.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Winterreise, Op. 89 D. 911|