Schubert (Die) Winterreise
Ah, this journey! How many have made it, sincerely and imaginatively, two setting out as nearly as possible as one! So many on records too, following the elusive track as with torchlight concentrated upon it. Yet, of all, I cannot think of one (not even Fischer-Dieskau in his 1965 recording with Jörg Demus) that leads more faithfully to the cold comfort of its end. And when we get there in this performance, what an end it is!
The journey begins with ever such a slight whine high in the voice, as with a calm acceptance of pain. The piano abstains from jabbing sforzandi to underline what the chords make plain enough, instead insisting calmly on its left-hand legato. The melting major-key modulation is all affection: no hint of bitterness in the sentiment that his passing footsteps should not disturb the faithless beloved’s sleep. But outside in the open, stillness and turbulence alternate like the moods of the weather-vane. And so throughout much of the trek the self-confiding of the loner holds in check the utterance of emotion as the icy surface of the river conceals the running water beneath. Even so the pain will out, as it does in the last phrase, “ihr Bild dahin”, of “Erstarrung”.
On we go, lulled and tormented by the magic music-box of “Frühlingstraum”, till the tragic chord before “so elend nicht” in “Einsamkeit” brings a dreadful reality into focus. The deceptive sweetness of “Die Krähe”, the giddy disorientation of “Letzte Hoffnung”, the subdued feverish excitements of “Täuschung” find an almost holy stability in “Das Wirtshaus”, but still the external world exists, felt as almost an intrusion in “Mut”. And soon we meet the organ-grinder. And his secrets must on no account be revealed by reviewer or arts-gossip. And the listener must wait, out of respect to this marvellous partnership of Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis, until time can be taken for it, alone and uninterrupted, to accompany them on the journey through to its unearthly end.