A superb Winterreise

English baritone Roderick Williams is accompanied by Iain Burnside in a musical journey through Winterreise – the most difficult, most profound of all song cycles.

Having navigated through the quieter waters of Schwanengesang and Die schöne Müllerin starting fifteen years ago, Williams now a vocally and interpretatively more mature artist valiantly sets sail through the often turbulent waters of Schubert’s Winter Journey.

Wiliams’ is a performance marked by vocalism completely unfettered by any mannerisms, and interpretatively honest to a fault. His German is perfectly inflected and fastidiously attentive to the poetic details of poet Wilhelm Müller’s texts.

Williams’ initially restrained delivery is crystal-clear, judicious, and elegant, but when he comes to Auf dem Flusse he lets the pent-up despair the poet has held under control burst forth. It is a chilling, gut-wrenching cri de coeur as moving as one has ever heard in many a performance of this musical journey into the darkness at the end of life’s road.

The impatience of Die Post, the hope for naught of Frühlingstraum, the hallucinatory quality of Der greise Kopf, the lyricism of Der greise Kopf are song after song masterfully given the precisely called for vocal color by the protean Roderick Williams, equally comfortable and assured at the top of the staff as he is near its bottom.

Throughout the hour-long plus performance Iain Burnside is the ideal partner, supportive throughout, assertive when the music demands it, technically impeccable.

There are many recorded performances of this music – so many in fact that wags may be tempted to ask if one should want another Winterreise. Without hesitation I would answer “yes” if the offering is of such high quality as this perfectly engineered, sublimely performed CHANDOS CD.