Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Winterreise D 911 (1827)
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]
Maarten Koningsberger (baritone), Roger Braun (piano)
rec. 3-6 July 2002, Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven
Sung texts with English translation enclosed
QUINTONE Q11003 [73:30]
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. The Gopera 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 compassion.
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 it?
Göran Forsling
Koningsberger’s is a perfectly valid reading, worth anyone’s money.