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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Winterreise
Transcription and Intermezzi for String Quartet by Andreas Höricht
Voyager Quartet
rec. 2019, Konzertsaal 1800, St. Christoph am Arlberg
SOLO MUSICA SM335 [50:26]

The Voyager Quartet was founded in 2014 but the members were no beginners. They had previous experience from famous string quartets and from great orchestras. The quartet’s concept has been to create a connection between the music they play and the term “journey”. Thus it was natural to turn to music’s most famous journey, Schubert’s Winterreise. The viola player of the group, Andreas Höricht, set to work, chose twelve of the 24 songs of the cycle and composed intermezzi as bridges between the songs. As in Beethoven’s quartet Op. 131 there are no breaks between the numbers, so the composition is a continuous flow of 50 minutes of music, where the bridges, the intermezzos, constitute the breaks, which at the same time seamless joins them together. Andreas Höricht has not strived to write Schubertean music. The intermezzos are in a fairly modern idiom but so well adjusted to the surrounding Schubert music that the listener has to be attentive – unless she/he is following a score – to hear the “joints”.

The transcriptions work well to convey the moods of the various songs and tempos are fairly “normal”. Traditional readings of the cycle can vary considerably, from way under 70 minutes to almost 90. I have heard quite extreme tempo choices that still feel valid. Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed a recording of these songs performed by trombone and piano. It worked extremely well. I don’t know if the present attempt with strings has been made before, but a couple of years ago I had a recording with voice and string quartet, sung by Johan Reuter (review). My colleague John France was also enthusiastic about it and I made it a Recording of the Month and in December also made it one of my six Recordings of the Year. As I point out there a string quartet can both be more colourful than the traditional piano and infuse the music with a stronger feeling of legato. I have often felt that the opening song, Gute Nacht, can be very bumpy but with strings it becomes smoother. I felt this very strongly when I heard the Reuter recording and had the same experience here. In fact this transcription gives a new perspective to the songs, just as the trombone version also did. This is a disc I will return to many times, and I have already dipped into parts of it and found new things to admire. Höricht’s Intermezzi certainly have a value of their own but it is the harmony between them and Schubert’s original that is central – and sometimes also the disharmony. Intermezzo IX is like a revolutionary thought that appears in the mind of the wanderer when leaving the churchyard.

I wonder if Schubert had lived longer, would he have contemplated transcribing Winterreise? His string quartet writing was after all eminent. Speculations like this are of course fruitless, but I think Andreas Höricht’s attempt on the present disc is both attractive and perspective building. I’m sure many lovers of Schubert’s music can derive a lot of pleasure from this issue. Moreover quartet lovers in general can wallow in the excellent playing of the Voyager Quartet. I’m already looking forward to their next journey – wherever it will be destined.

Göran Forsling

Contents
1. Preludio – Gute Nacht – Intermezzo I [5:21]
2. Gefrorne Tränen – Intermezzo II [2:52]
3. Der Lindenbaum – Intermezzo III [4:39]
4. Auf dem Flusse – Intermezzo IV [4:15]
5. Irrlicht – Intermezzo V [4:02]
6. Frühlingstraum – Intermezzo VI [4:46]
7. Einsamkeit – Intermezzo VII [3:13]
8. Der Wegweiser – Intermezzo VIII [5:00]
9. Das Wirtshaus – Intermezzo IX [5:17]
10. Mut – Intermezzo X [2:36]
11. Die Nebensonnen – Intermezzo XI [4:53]
12. Der Leiermann [3:25]



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