Review: Der Winterreise

You could appreciate the 21st century take on Schubert’s immortal song cycle by Roderick Williams and Christopher Glynn, but you didn’t have to like it!

Although increasingly treated as such, Lieder (or art song to use its genre heading) is not opera with dramatic and vocal gestures, though it could be argued to have got closer to the form in the 20th century, especially with the growth of music theatre.

In effect, this is what we had here enhanced by the fact that we were in a building that exists as a theatre, which Williams took the fullest advantage off.

He was never still: up and down the stage level aisles of the Crucible Studio, rendering songs while sat down on one of the steps and even managing to perch himself behind Glynn on his piano stool for Das Wirtshaus (No 21).

Character-creation was suspended, however, for a quick dash between aisles after Rast (No 10) for Frühlingstraum (No 11)!

Nothing to get unduly hot under the collar over perhaps, but there was from the standpoint of Schubert when it was completely over the top!

Williams and Glynn had no intention of it sounding like the last Wintereisse you heard and went to daring, doubtless well-intentioned lengths to ensure it didn’t.

Musically, the approach was largely declamatory and veristic with wide dynamic contrasts, Mut (No 22) with a wide rhythmic swing. Legato lines tended to be eschewed in the name of dramatic effect.

Not normally heard staccato singing and playing was in evidence, vividly so in Die Wetterfahne (No 2) and Im Dorfe (No 17), respectively; but a major miscalculation was the speed that Rückblick (No 8) was taken at which obliterated the song’s shape.

In lesser hands, it could have been a disaster but the inherent musicianship of those here, allied to the Williams’ vocal intensity, just about enabled the cycle to stay afloat and was rewarded with a loud, noisy reception at the end followed by a standing ovation.

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