ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Franz Schubert - Winterreise - Mark Padmore (Tenor)

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FRANZ SCHUBERT - WINTERREISE - MARK PADMORE (Tenor) - PAUL LEWIS (Piano) - 093046748425 -
Harmonia Mundi 907484


The record business is somewhat like a game of chess. Every move you make should always be a move forward, anticipating what the competition is planning, and progressively establishing a better position, and ultimately reaching your goal. Well, this new release from October 2009, could be considered a bold "coup d'échec" on the part of Harmonia Mundi. After all, Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis are two of this label's strongest new rising stars, still basking in the afterglow of their very successful individual recordings, and Harmonia Mundi decides to unite their talents and make them musical partners on this recording of the greatest song-cycle ever composed. The lyrical masterpiece Winterreise by Franz Schubert. And based on the quality of this recording, this bold move could well result in a checkmate.

Composed during Schubert's final year, it is based on poems by Wilhelm Muller that are full of haunting imagery of past moments remembered, of lost love, pain and sorrow, suicide...and all against a backdrop of winter's desolation. Not everyone can sing this work effectively. There have been some great renditions in the past from the likes of Fischer-Dieskau, Peter Pears, Hans Hotter and so on, and it can be just as touching regardless of the voice, be it a tenor or a baritone. Mark Padmore is gifted with a great tenor voice, but what gives him the edge here, is that subtle touch of desperation behind the voice, that slight manic urgency behind the perfect diction, that sense of lost reasoning behind the words. All of these qualities really bring the poetry and the music to life. Add to that the fact that Paul Lewis taunts him at every turn to raise the emotional level even more, so that by the time we reach the final song, it feels like the singer has lost his mind.

It is not only a perfectly sung performance of this masterpiece, it is also perfectly acted and personified, to the extent that the soul, the essence, of both the poetry and the music come to life, and deliver a message just as pertinent today as it did back in 1827.

Jean-Yves Duperron