The recordings issued by African-American-Swedish soprano Barbara Hendricks on her own Arte Verum label have been consistently rewarding. Unlike the children of Lake Wobegon, however, they can't all be above average, and Schubert's grim song cycle Die Winterreise, D. 911, may not be the work that shows her at her best. The booklet devotes space toward justifying the idea of having Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey) sung by a woman despite its explicitly male perspective. This is not an issue anymore, if indeed it ever was, and in any event Hendricks is not the first female singer to perform or record Die Winterreise. The issue instead lies with the nature of Hendricks' art, which is performative, showy in the best sense. Give her credit: she is anything but dull, and this recording holds the listener's attention through sheer force of personality. But it's hard to imagine the original venue for Schubert's song performances, the intimate gatherings of his friends and admirers, in Hendricks' readings. Sample the famed Der Lindenbaum (track 5) to see how you feel about the absence of limpid melody here. The accompaniment of Love Derwinger is not as sensitive to the original material as he usually is; the alarming chromatic harmonies of Auf dem Flusse (track 7) are given little emphasis beyond the regular flow of accents. Hendricks fans will certainly find insights here into an undeniably fascinating artist, but those new to her mature art might start elsewhere.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Winterreise, D 911|