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Schubert: Winterreise

4.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 13, 1996
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Any great concert singer is likely to have a lifelong obsession with Schubert's greatest song cycle, which tracks the winter journey of a jilted lover wandering into the snow finding ever-greater depths of alienation. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau seemed to record the piece every 10 years or so, but this 1966 outing is said to be his favorite, and it's easy to understand why. All of his customary intelligence is in full evidence, but the voice is particularly resplendent. While this carries an obvious sensual appeal--and every two minutes or so he does something that takes your breath away--the voice also illuminates his overall interpretive concepts with a clarity that can be achieved perhaps only by a voice in its absolute prime. Particularly gratifying is his emotional directness; later performances could be so refined, so worked over that the emotionalism (such an important part of this piece) seemed more remembered than felt. --David Patrick Stearns
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Product Details

  • Performer: Jörg Demus
  • Composer: Franz Schubert
  • Audio CD (February 13, 1996)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GQE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,073 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
If you are going to purchase a Winterreise recording, let me assure you that having listened to so many, it has to be either this one, or the recording of Fischer-Dieskau, also in 1962, accompanied by Moore. Both pianists - Moore and Demus - work beautifully for Fischer-Dieskau. I might perhaps recommend Moore over Demus, but that is, of course, just my preference, and it is Fischer-Dieskau's performance we're talking about here.
First off, one needs to know a little German, or at least follow the translation well, in order to appreciate these Lieder. Fischer-Dieskau brings such a depth of emotion into the music that the lyrics must be followed by the listener, or else much is lost. Vocal expression - emotions expressed in individual words - is more important in "Wintereise" than in many other German Lieder.
This "Winterreise" is the most, repeat, the most beautiful rendition of ANY of Schubert's Lieder that I have heard. Someone once reviewed Fisher-Dieskau's 1960s Winterreise saying "it makes you feel like slashing your wrists".
True! "Winterreise" is, as Schubert said, morose and devoid of hope; Fischer-Dieskau carries the mood and emotion to the extreme limits, and what we get is such a heart-rending performance, it's almost unbearable. It's also almost unbelievable that a human voice can carry so much emotion.
Fischer-Dieskau's voice in this recording is at its best. It is totally spontaneous; it is from the depths of a despondent heart - and yet it is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that it seems that not even a syllable could have been improved!
The horror of the waking from the dream - "Es shrieen die Raben vom Dach!"; the resigned yet infinitely pining tone in "wann halt ich mein Liebchen in Arm?
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Format: Audio CD
For reasons I don't fully understand, I have developed a custom over the past several years of listening to Schubert's Winterreise at around the time of the Fourth of July. Perhaps it is the contrast between the hot summer days and the icy, wintery setting of Schubert's songs. In addition, the one-day summer break, encouraging reflection in the midst of a busy year, draws me to Schubert's music. But more so, while occupied with public celebrations, such as fireworks, parades, and company (which I also enjoy), I find it valuable to do something private,pensive, and deeply sad. It is the feeling of being alone. Thus, this year, as in several years past, I have reheard "Winterreise".

Winterreise is a cycle of 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller that Schubert set in 1827, just months before his death. The singer is a man who has just been rejected by a woman he has met in a town to which he has wandered. "A stranger I arrived/ a stranger I depart again", he sings at the outset of the work. The work covers a range of feelings from rejection through loneliness, despondency, self-criticism, anger, dashed hope, thoughts of suicide, heartbreak, and, at the end, madness. It is wrenching music, utterly sad. It captures feelings that those who have been alone will know, regardless of musical sophistication. For all the sadness of the score, I never fail to feel restored upon hearing it.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded at least seven studio versions of "Winterreise" during a long career. I am most familiar with his recordings with his long-time accompanist, Gerald Moore; but I find that this recording, dating from 1966, with pianist Jorg Demus surpasses the versions with Moore. The phrasing, dramatic power, and passion of Fischer-Dieskau's singing on this recording are extraordinary.
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Format: Audio CD
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died yesterday at 86. He was the greatest lieder singer of the second half of the twentieth century, and his voice was one of those, like Bjoerling's, that was both immediately recognizable and absolutely beautiful. He was more than a lieder singer, of course, but it seems fitting, given his predominance and continuing influence in that field to use this occasion to highlight one of his lieder recordings. This Winterreise with Demus from 1966 is to my mind the best of his recordings of these songs (and none of them are negligible!). The voice was at its peak, the balance of attention to the text and the music seems just right, Demus's contribution is distinguished, and the recording is truthful. The old favorites like "Lindenbaum" are simply gorgeous, and the later, more bitter songs in the cycle are heartbreaking. By all means hear F-D's other "Winterreisen" -- two with Moore from 1962 and about 1970, and the one with Brendel from the 1980's, with the voice still beautiful and distinctive. Then move on to his "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" with Schwarzkopf and Szell -- a "Wo die Schonen Trompeten blasen" like no other -- and to his "Fahrenden Gesellen" songs with Kubelik or Furtwangler ("Die Zwei Blauen Augen" to break the heart). Then there are the operas! We WILL never hear his like again.
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Format: Audio CD
My high school German teacher -- one of them -- called German "die Sprache Dichtern und Denker" -- and I hope my faulty grammar at least paraphrases what he meant. This album brought his words back to me, to which I would add 'singers of eternally beautiful songs.' The combination of lyric beauty and dramatic power is unmatched here. Fischer-Dieskau has recorded this cycle several times. It is hard to ignore his collaborations with Gerald Moore, but this version from the mid-sixties finds a supurb partner in Jorg Demus.
Perhaps the German Lieder tradition of setting fine verse to music reached it's peak in Schubert's setting of Wilhelm Muellers poems. This recording makes a convincing argument in favor of such a view. The cycle seems a reflection on mortality and the ultimate solitude of the individual; the final song, "Der Leiermann," is a heartbreaking image of despair made bearable through the sheer beauty of Fischer-Dieskau's voice.
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