I was a bit confused about the provenance of this recording.
It was originally produced for Tatlin records in 2003, but nowhere
on the cover, the booklet and the disc in the present issue,
copyrighted in 2011, is there any mentioning of a record company
and a catalogue number. However, on ArkivMusik I found the above
information, which I hope is correct. It is a pity if potential
customers have problems finding the disc, since it is well worth
buying. I will manifest evidence in the next paragraph.
Winterreise is not exactly underrepresented in the catalogues.
entry revealed a chronological list of recordings with 107
entries and there were still some missing that I own. Any newcomer
must have something special to offer to be able to challenge
the competitors. Maarten Koningsberger is not strictly speaking
a newcomer - this recording was made a decade ago - but it seems
that it hasn’t been too widely circulated. Koningsberger
has a long and wide-ranging discography and there is no doubt
that he has a fine voice with a brilliant, rather light top
and enough extension to make the lower end of the register tell.
His readings are nuanced and well considered. His timbre and
the actual sounds remind me of the young Hermann Prey, and they
have quite a lot in common in their approach to the songs. Prey
sometimes had a tendency to be over-emphatic and Gute Nacht,
the first song in this cycle could be rather four-square. Even
visually he illustrated this, almost on the verge of parody.
Koningsberger is not wholly free from this either but by and
large he is much smoother. There is actually very little to
complain about in his singing and his pianist is excellent,
but I feel all the same that he doesn’t get very deep
under the skin of his character - not until the last couple
of songs in the first part of the cycle: Frühlingstraum
and Einsamkeit. There he is suddenly more involved. It
seems that as the cycle progresses the personality of the character
stands out more clearly and this is the turning point.
In the second part we are, from the outset, witnessing a psychological
thriller, evoking intense memories of the town he has left.
No letters for him, but he remembers his beloved and wonders
how she’s getting on: My Heart!
The emotions become ever stronger: the frost that sprinkles
a white sheen over his hair, the crow which followed him from
the town still circles above his head. ‘Are you intending,
very soon, to take my corpse as prey?’.
Koningsberger and Braun often let the one song follow the previous
one with a minimum of silence between. This works well and stresses
the implacability of the wanderer’s fate. Im Dorfe
is rather understated - are his powers beginning to dwindle?
No, he still has strength to cry out his agony in the last lines
of Der Wegweiser: ‘A road I must travel / from
which no one has ever returned.’ Koningsberger stresses
‘keiner’ (no one) in a kind of extended cry for
I have said this before and it’s worth repeating: This
song-cycle invariably seems to bring out the best from its interpreters.
I can’t recall one single reading, live or on disc, that
hasn’t touched the heartstrings - and this one is no exception.
Die Nebensonnen, the penultimate song, is the final blow
and in the final Der Leiermann he is already disappearing
into the unknown. The voice becomes thinner, frailer, more distant.
All is soon over.
Among the 107+ competitors in the catalogue - not all of them
easily available at the moment - there are a lot of superb,
deeply emotional readings. Koningsberger’s may not be
the one to make the rest of them redundant. I won’t dispose
of Gerhard Hüsch, Hans Hotter (2), Fischer-Dieskau (4,
but he has made more than a handful more), Olaf Bär, Thomas
Bauer, or, in other voice pitches, Brigitte Fassbaender, Natalie
Stutzmann, Peter Schreier and for a partly almost psychotic
reading John Elwes. However, on his own terms Koningsberger’s
is a perfectly valid reading, worth anyone’s money. Are
you contemplating your first Winterreise? Why not try
Masterwork Index: Winterreise
1. Gute Nacht [5:37]
2. Die Wetterfahne [1:46]
3. Gefrorne Tränen [2:28]
4. Erstarrung [3:06]
5. Der Lindenbaum [4:36]
6. Wasserflut [4:15]
7. Auf dem Flusse [3:37]
8. Rückblick [2:21]
9. Irrlicht [2:45]
10. Rast [3:16]
11. Frühlingstraum [4:02]
12. Einsamkeit [2:54]
13. Die Post [2:28]
14. Der greise Kopf [2:58]
15. Die Krähe [2:41]
16. Letzte Hoffnung [2:22]
17. Im Dorfe [3:04]
18. Der stürmiche Morgen [0:52]
19. Täuschung [1:36]
20. Der Wegweiser [4:20]
21. Das Wirtshaus [3:51]
22. Mut! [1:24]
23. Die Nebensonnen [2:57]
24. Der Leiermann [4:00]