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Winterreise


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Product Details

  • Performer: Alice Coote, Julius Drake
  • Composer: Franz Schubert
  • Audio CD (April 9, 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Wigmore Hall Live
  • ASIN: B00BJ60K5E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,241 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 30, 2013
Format: Audio CD
I have listened to this recital several times without quite being able to make up my mind about my reaction to Alice Coote's voice. Responses to vocal timbres are notoriously personal and I do not find myself warming to her in the same way that I immediately sit up and beg whenever I hear the inimitable tones of the other female singers who have recorded this song cycle, such as mezzos Brigitte Fassbaender and Christa Ludwig and contralto Natalie Stutzmann. This has something to do with my sense that some of Coote's vocal effects are too consciously applied - for example, the throaty sound she assumes at 2'49" in "Der Lindenbaum" on the words "Die kalten Winden bliesen"; it is like another voice and rather disconcerting. She has excellent, pointed German diction and an essentially fine instrument with a pleasing, smoky tone, but there is sometimes an edge in higher notes and she has a habit of over-emoting and punching out key words in the style of a certain celebrated, recently deceased German baritone, which I suspect is partly and subconsciously the result of her desire to compensate for the unadorned and very four-square accompaniment provided by Julius Drake.

Indeed, Drake's contribution to this recording constitutes my main objection to it. His pianism is technically excellent but emotionally almost perfunctory in comparison to that of the far freer, more expressive contributions of Aribert Reimann for Fassbaender, James Levine for Ludwig or Inger Södergren for Stutzmann.

While so many of the songs are individual masterpieces, for me, three are especially crucial to my enjoyment of any performance. The first is "Der Lindenbaum", mentioned above, and the second is that miraculous mini-psychodrama "Die Krähe".
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Format: Audio CD
At this point in the history of recorded Winterreises, the standards are impossibly high, and there isn't even any novelty to a woman singing the cycle. My favorites are from Christa Ludwig and Birgitte Fassbaender; in both case the sheer beauty of the songs themselves, along with the singer's musicality, offset the discordance of hearing texts clearly requiring a disconsolate young man. At 45, the prominent British mezzo Alice Coote comes to Schubert's masterpiece with a fine voice, long experience, and mature musical instincts (despite the dark coloration in hr tone, Coote isn't a contralto, as an earlier reviewer mistakenly says).

This live account date form Jan. 2012 and earns gratitude from all lovers of lieder to London's Wigmore Hall for continuing to issue recordings when all the major labels have essentially abandoned art songs. My only complaint, which is unfortunately a major one, has to do with the literal, often stiff accompaniment by Julius Drake. He puts one foot in front of the other, and this inhibits Coote's emotional flights, although she manages to launch them as often as she can. The ordinary 'Gute Nacht' that begins the cycle isn't a fair indication of her intensity, which begins to fully reveal itself in the fourth song, 'Erstarrung.' Drake is accomplished enough technically but without imagination. It's a shame that such sensitive singing wasn't backed by Vignobles, Martineau, or Zeyen.

For me, the songs get deeper and more haunting toward the end - a great performer like Peter Pears makes "Die Krahe," "Der Wegweiser,' and "Der Leiermann" unforgettable experiences, expressive of the human condition at its most bereft. Coote rises to them very movingly. I don't think I've heard better in decades. What more can I add?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on May 21, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Contralto Alice Coote sings so many "male" roles in opera that she needs at times to remind interviewers that 'she is a girl.' I heard her say exactly that during the halftime of a recent Met simulcast. She sings and acts those trousers roles with total aplomb. Why shouldn't she sing Winterreise with the same artistry? The poems of the cycle are ineluctably the voice of a man, it's true, and an archetypical self-pitying lovesick Werther-clone at that. It takes some chutzpah from a woman singer, and some gender-bending from a listener who happens to understand German, to handle the "affect" of this performance. True, most non-Germans listen to Winterreise for the music alone, disregarding the poetry. You do so at your own loss! The poems are not bad at all for the genre of Romantic drivel. Coote is most successful to my ears on the very songs that set the best poems of the cycle. But I won't declare my own preferences; that would constitute a spoiler.

In general I prefer to hear most Schubert Lieder sung by baritones or tenors. If I listed my "ten favorite" Schubert singers, they'd all be guys. Alice Coote might make eleventh on such a list, on the basis of this CD. It's a keeper, worth hearing more than once. Coote is accompanied by pianist Julius Drake, who has accompanied nearly every Schubertist at one time or another. He's solidly supportive of Coote's affect throughout but perhaps a tad standardized on the more impassioned Lieder, just where Coote most obviously challenges her poet's masculine Angst.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By musician on August 17, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Although this song cycle was written for a male voice, I think there are no restrictions if a mezzo-soprano decides to sing it. Alice Coote perfectly interprets all songs. Her voice is suitable for this song cycle.
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