There is no shortage of recordings of Winterreise (Winter Journey), Franz Schubert's grimmest and perhaps most personal song cycle. But this one from Belgium's Zig Zag Territoires label stands out from the crowd for a couple of reasons. First is the full-blooded, passionate performance by German baritone Thomas Bauer, who apparently prepared for the effort by taking the Trans-Siberian Railway and giving concerts in Siberian towns. "Method" singing! Some may find that subtler readings give more space to the harmonic complexities of a song like Auf dem Flusse (track 7), or that his Hurdy-Gurdy Man conclusion lacks a certain hopeless melancholy, but Bauer has power, passion, control, and emotional involvement in the material. The second distinctive trait of the release is the accompaniment, played by historical-keyboard specialist Jos van Immerseel, using a 1988 copy of a Viennese Anton Walter fortepiano of unstated date. The fortepiano hasn't been used much in lieder accompaniment, and this makes you want to hear more treatments of this kind. Immerseel uses the clearer articulation of the fortepiano to bring out polyphonic lines in the accompaniment, but the instrument as used here also adds a certain air of remoteness that would be hard to duplicate with a more percussive modern grand. The novel balances between singer and accompanist are finely detailed by the engineering team, working in the Bruges Concertgebouw (not the larger Amsterdam hall of the same name). An intriguing Winterreise, well worth adding to Schubert collections.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Winterreise, D. 911|