Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us
Schubert – Winterreise

John Tomlinson – bass

David Owen Norris – piano


St John's , Smith Square – 13 February 2007


Willhelm Muller's poems refer very specifically to a young man making his melancholy winter journey which, when the singer is clearly of mature years, potentially poses some difficulty for an audience.


But John Tomlinson is one of those singers who is able to present lieder, not as though it were something he has studied and polished over a period of time, but with all the appearance of spontaneity, as though he is singing the words just as they occur to him. It is a rare talent and a very powerful one.


The vision he conjured up for me was of a man reminiscing and re-living an episode much earlier in his life. It works well with the text in many ways, the many references to dreams with which he has no doubt filled the passing years, the emphasis on physical discomforts “I've stumbled over every stone”, “my sores hurt so much that my limbs cannot rest” which assume greater significance with age, and the poignancy of “I shudder at my youth … How far still to the grave?” seems just as valid in retrospect as the distance to the grave continues to stretch out.


Whether or not I have read his intent correctly, it was a performance of real stature and intensity. His has a huge dynamic range, from barely a whisper to a roar, and pallet of colours from honeyed legato to anguished staccato, and the body language and stage presence to match.


David Owen Norris is something of a Winterreise specialist and his playing brought out every atmospheric nuance in the score, unerringly defining the landscape with the same economy as a painter making just a few brushstrokes to create a sketch.


Detailed comment is superfluous, it was an occasion when the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. A landmark recital with a noticeable sprinkling of Schubert exponents in the audience: Philip Langridge and Simon Keenlyside to name but two.

Serena Fenwick