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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Winterreise D911 - Song cycle to poems by Wilhelm Müller
see track listing below review
Peter Anders (tenor); Michael Raucheisen (piano)
rec. 23 February, 2 March, 13 March 1945, Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft, Haus des Rundfunks, Masurenallee, Berlin. ADD mono
ACANTA 233690 [73:16]

There are many reasons for the lover of Schubert Lieder to buy this disc: reasons historical, aesthetic and musicological.
First, it was recorded in the end-days of Hitler’s Germany, while Michael Raucheisen, the excellent pianist here, doggedly pursued his project of recording as many Lieder as he could with artists such as Patzak and Anders who had survived the war and were still able to get to Berlin. Germany was in ruins, as the cover picture of the bombed Reichstag graphically depicts. The Russians were poised to capture the city and brutally subdue its population through a policy of mass rape. Hitler’s evil ambitions would end in a bunker only a month or so after these recordings were completed. Yet here are two superlative Schubertians making music as if to reassert the true place and meaning of German culture before it was hi-jacked.
Secondly, in addition to Raucheisen’s sensitive accompaniment, we have here an invaluable souvenir of the artistry of a great German tenor who, like Fritz Wunderlich, would die all too young – not falling down the stairs but in a road accident nine years later in 1954 when he was only 46 years old.
Thirdly, we have the chance to hear “Winterreise” sung in its original tenor version, mostly in the keys Schubert stipulated, rather than the more usual transpositions to a bass-baritone.
Finally, the interpretation itself is artistically outstanding, Anders deploying his virile tenor across a wide range of moods, tones, dynamics and colours, expertly supported by his pianist. Even the sound is more than acceptable, this having been recorded on the new technology of tape. As such, it’s mostly free of shatter, with only some slight distortion on louder, higher notes, a bit of sputter on sibilants and some very faint pre-echo in songs such “Im Dorfe”.
Anders began his career with a lyric tenor which soon developed into a more robust and heroic instrument. His singing here is at times almost strident and often stentorian but he is equally capable of a melting pianissimo mezza voce as in “Frühlingstraum”, where he sings very softly without resorting to crooning. He pays grateful attention to subtleties and nuances such as diminuendos and acciaccaturas, with all the little grace notes and telling inflections in place. His diction is crystalline and his willingness to sing out operatically means that his big voice has the capacity to strike just the right note of desperation this cycle demands. Tempi are swift and driven in a manner that complements that sense of urgency, yet in songs such as “Die Krähe” both singer and pianist hit just the right note of dreamy detachment, as cold and isolation numb the poet’s sensibilities.
I urge those who want a modern digital version sung by the more traditional baritone to go to the recent Florian Boesch accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on the Onyx label. Otherwise, this large-scale reading is an essential purchase for the devotee of Schubert Lieder.

Ralph Moore

Track Listing

Gute Nacht [5:38]
Die Wetterfahne [1:50]
Gefror'ne Tränen [3:03]
Erstarrung [2:54]
Der Lindenbaum [4:30]
Wasserflut [3:51]
Auf dem Flusse [4:03]
Rückblick [2:28]
Irrlicht [2:46]
Rast [3:34]
Frühlingstraum [4:36]
Einsamkeit [2:43]
Die Post [2:37]
Der greise Kopf [2:57]
Die Krähe [2:06]
Letzte Hoffnung [2:34]
Im Dorfe [2:58]
Der stürmische Morgen [1:01]
Tauschung [1:36]
Der Wegweiser [4:04]
Das Wirtshaus [4:10]
Mut [1:29]
Die Nebensonnen [2:29]
Der Leiermann. [3:19]