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Schubert – Die Winterreise

Klaus Mertens – baritone / Tini Mathot - fortepiano

Challenge Classics : CC72152

[Recorded March 2005 : 76 mins]

No. 1, Gute Nacht;No. 2, Die Wetterfahne;No. 3, Gefrorne Tränen;No. 4, Erstarrung; No. 5, Der Lindenbaum; No. 6, Wasserflut;No. 7, Auf dem Flusse;No. 8, Rückblick;No. 9, Irrlicht;No. 10, Rast; No. 11, Frühlingstraum;No. 12, Einsamkeit;No. 13, Die Post;No. 14, Der greise Kopf;No. 15, Die Krähe; No. 16, Letzte Hoffnung;No. 17, Im Dorfe;No. 18, Der stürmische Morgen;No. 19, Täuschung;No. 20, Der Wegweiser; No. 21, Das Wirtshaus;No. 22, Mut;No. 23, Die Nebensonnen;No. 24, Der Leiermann


Schubert's setting of Muller's poems must surely rate as one of the greatest of all song cycles, and as such is already on record from many of the world's finest singers and pianists, in various combinations.


Tini Mathot plays a fortepiano built by Michael Rosenberger in Vienna c.1802 - a close match to the sort of instrument with which Schubert would have felt at home [illustration is one at the UK Finchcocks Collection]. Its tone is distinctive, and in my opinion, shows best in the more pastoral episodes such as No 7 “On the River” and No 18 “Stormy Morning” (sung in German; there are recordings in English by Derek Hammond-Stroud and Jeffrey Benton).

The whole cycle is a depiction of a long, lonely journey, with the traveller's footsteps reflected in the piano score. Meter becomes an important factor, and whilst this will be a matter of personal taste, I found Mathot's tending towards the regimental, and at times puzzling. For example, the leaflet notes for No 3 “Frozen Tears” read “Slowly, somewhat hesitating, the wayfarer continues on his journey” , yet her fortepiano is clearly progressing at a resolute marching pace.


Klaus Mertens has a pleasantly rounded clear baritone, particularly effective near the top of his register and in lyrical passages such as No 17 “In the Village”. His diction is admirable and he projects a strong sense of the poet's emotion and insecurity. I would have liked a little more introspection and his care for individual words disjointed the unity of a phrase here and there. These are really just quibbles, but by choosing this work the performers are inviting comparison with the “greats” of the lieder world. The CD is sensibly packaged and the booklet contains song-by-song notes as well as text and translation.


Anyone who doesn't already own any recordings of Winterreise should find this one completely satisfactory, though it might not supplant existing favourites; mine include two of Matthias Goerne's: with Alfred Brendel (Decca 467 092-2DH) and with Graham Johnson (Hyperion CDJ33030)….


© Serena Fenwick


There are other recordings with fortepiano and in the original key. Soprano Julianne Baird gives the original 1927 published version of the first twelve songs, and complete tracks (Mozart and Purcell songs too) can be heard on her website. Christoph Pregardien's with Andreas Staier is a serious contender, but may be hard to find; Sample also his recording for Kairos of Hans Zender's "composed interpretation" of Winterreise, conducted by Cambreling. Fascinating! They make you think!