DG’s mining of its vast catalogue continues with the Original Masters series of budget-priced reissues, of which this well-filled three-disc Hans Hotter set is a highly attractive entry. Hotter’s superb, black-tinged instrument and aliveness to the texts indisputably place him among the great singers of the last century. So this set is an enticing proposition for those familiar with his artistry and for newcomers interested in an overview of Hotter’s distinguished career. But the set is weighted toward the latter part of that career; all of the second disc and parts of the other two were recorded in the early-to-mid-1970s when Hotter was in his mid-60s. (Despite the album’s title, some tracks were recorded in 1975). He was still singing with insight and expressivity, but his remarkably well-preserved vocal instrument had nevertheless become darker, drier, less flexible, and more effortful.
Pentaèdre the wind quintet whose Così: Un opéra muet, a transcription of selections from Così fan tutte, was one of the most delightful albums of 2007 is joined by accordionist Joseph Petric in its release of a chamber version of Winterreise. In this inspired arrangement, the group's oboist Normand Forget expands the colors of a traditional wind quintet by having an oboe d'amore substitute for the oboe, and having the flute, clarinet, and horn double other instruments.
Schubert's Winterreise offers what likely is the darkest, most tormented, aesthetically and emotionally compelling journey in the repertoire of Romantic song-cycles. Any singer who takes it on (most often baritones, but frequently tenors and occasionally a female voice) must make the effort to immerse himself in Wilhelm Müller's poetry and Schubert's magnificently moody, unreservedly honest representation of its darkly human sentiment.
Franz Schubert´s “Winterreise” engages with its audience in a new and unexpected form: in a creative encounter with Schubert’s masterpiece.
The first few minutes of each of these recordings of Schubert’s overwhelming song cycle hardly seem to belong to the same work. Klaus Mertens , more familiar in sacred music and now in his late fifties, is introduced by a clangorous fortepiano, none too sensitively banged by Tini Mathot, and sounds like an elderly workman off to the day’s slog. Christine Schäfer, who never sounds more than 16, is launched by the perky tones of Eric Schneider, and when she enters it is as a cheerful small bird greeting the sun. Schäfer raises the issue of whether this cycle should be sung by a woman at all, but Lotte Lehmann, Christa Ludwig and above all Brigitte Fassbaender prove that it can be, with magnificent results.
Schubert knew madness. He knew it to the depths of his soul and feared it. And out of his fear he wrote the greatest monument to love lost, to death lost, to madness found. He wrote Die Winterreise, the most hopeless art work ever conceived by the despairing mind of man. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the voice of Winterreise. In small part, this is because he recorded it seven times between 1952 and 1990. In larger part, this is because he is able to transform himself into the despairing lover. Yet Fischer-Dieskau is still the most lucid and most technically controlled of madmen. As Ingmar Bergman remarked on actor Max von Sydow, "If I'd had a psychopath to present these deeply psychopathic roles, it would have been unbearable".