The recordings of baritone Werner Güra and pianist Christoph Berner have shown their musical partnership to be one of the most formidable of the early 21st century. Their Hyperion recordings of Schubert's Schwanengesang and of songs and piano works by Mozart won Diapason d'Or awards and received Editor's Choice acknowledgements from Gramophone magazine. This outstanding 2010 release of Winterreise seems destined for similar accolades. The songs are among Schubert's most psychologically probing, and writing them put him into a state of acute emotional distress. The intensity of the composer's feelings is wrenchingly apparent in Güra's impassioned performances. He sings with such insight and spontaneity that he seems to have these songs embedded in his psyche. Every word and phrase feels honestly and agonizingly experienced, a chilling characterization of a man whose suffering has driven him to the end of his rope. Güra's technique is rock-solid and his voice is both exceptionally sweet and powerful, so he is able to give full expression to the protagonist's volatile and extreme emotional states, often with startling effect. In Der Krähe, for example, the anxiety that lies coiled in the singer's observation of a crow erupts with explosive force at the song's climax. Not only is the entire cycle a metaphor for a journey, but each song individually comes across as the traversal of a treacherous emotional landscape. Berner's accompaniments tend to be low-key, and wisely allow Güra the space to give free rein to his nuanced interpretations, but he provides an extraordinarily atmospheric and sensitive support for each song. Hyperion's sound is immaculate, beautifully balanced, and almost spookily present. This intensely felt and gorgeously sung performance should be of strong interest to fans of the cycle. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins