Baritone Johannes Held and the Swedish pianist Daniel Beskow have been working together for years on Schubert’s Winterreise. With their innovative concept Winterreise staged they brought the work to the limelight in 2014, together with illustrations by Jörn Kaspuhl and directed by Ebbe Knudsen. The visual experience and the performative act allow the audience an enhanced empathy with the intellectual world of Schubert’s protagonists – and they have consistently been enthusiastic about the extraordinary format. Now the two artists return to the beginning, to Schubert’s music and Wilhelm Müller’s texts, and release the Winterreise as a recording.
The Winterreise, Franz Schubert’s “cycle of frightful songs”, is the epitome of romantic song art. In 24 passion-like stations it reflects the impressions of a wanderer disappointed by love on his aimless journey through the landscape marked by winter. Wavering between exuberance and despair, the collection is an expression of longing and existential human pain. But as depressing as the subject may be, so wonderful is the music, so masterful the compositional execution. Schubert finished setting the texts of the Dessau poet Wilhelm Müller to music in 1828, when he found himself, too, in the winter of his life.
Schubert’s cycle has accompanied Johannes Held and Daniel Beskow throughout their entire musical lives. With their encounter the idea of a scenic variant grew – and with their collaboration also the refining of the musical interpretation of the work: “Despite our search for a new format, we have always resolved to remain true to those factors. For that reason, we’ve rehearsed for countless hours over the years. We played back recordings from concerts, and fought and wrestled over every note, every measure, and every word. We’ve discovered how expressive, desperate, and wild – yet also how hopeful, melancholic, and calm, Winterreise can be. Through our work, an interpretation ripened, which we recorded with the sound engineer Franz Schaden near Vienna. This is not our last word on Winterreise. It’s a snapshot in time.
October 6, 2019