This version of Schubert's grim song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey), the second by Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, comes with notes by one Gerhard Persché suggesting that rather than the chronicle of the world's worst breakup that the work has always been taken to be, Schubert and Wilhelm Müller actually intended a political meaning. The song cycle, in his view, is a coded protest against the restoration of the European monarchies in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. Persché makes the interesting point that the girl who causes the entire crisis virtually disappears from the last third of the cycle, and another attraction of the idea is that Schubert was probably not planning on dying at the age of 31, rendering autobiographical interpretations suspect. Some of the songs (Auf dem Flusse works well) indeed could be read as depictions of suppressed social currents, although Persché's notion of the marvelous image of the double sundog in Die Nebensonne (track 23) as representative of the French Revolution ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity seems far-fetched. Does Holzmair subscribe to this reading? There's no indication either way, and it seems unlikely. Yet his reading of the work is conducive to Persché's concept. Holzmair has a light voice, even for a lieder singer, and his interpretation seems quite laid-back at first, especially in comparison with the classic versions by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Pears. As it develops, however, Holzmair lays out subtle engagements with the songs in which the overheated emotions of the nameless protagonist share the spotlight with the poetic imagery. The accompanist is of critical importance in this kind of reading, and Holzmair and pianist Andreas Haefliger achieve a fluid balance that happens only at the top lieder echelon. Capriccio adds on superb sound from the acoustically superior Reitstadl Neumarkt concert hall, a converted feed warehouse dating back to 1520, and taken together the components of this release add up to a major new statement on Winterreise, a work for which there is no shortage of recordings.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Winterreise, Op. 89 D. 911|