In a note accompanying this new Winterreise with Jan Van Elsacker, the fortepianist and musicologist Tom Beghin asks what yet another new recording of Schubert’s great song-cycle might offer. The answer, in the first instance, is the instrument Beghin plays, a newly restored Gottlieb Hafner from Vienna c1830, whose five pedals – and attendant effects – Beghin is unafraid to employ.
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.