I‘m back… Sort of.
I’ve not been active on OperaLively for several months now. As it turns out, I was over-extending myself on my many projects and platforms, and because I didn’t have much on the hopper for opera and vocal music, I chose to take an extended hiatus from OL’s pages. There was nothing sinister, nothing bad, just too many things on the go, and not enough quality time to dedicate to all of them.

For the past few months, I’ve been setting aside some topics and music to “re-engage” the OL community, so here we are with enough ideas to try and get back in the groove.

Just one last caveat – I know I have called the series “Once or Twice a Fortnight”, but we may be more like “Once or Twice monthly” in the future. No need to re-brand the series, but I just thought I should set “frequency expectations”.

Since I slowed my activities down last fall, I’ve tried to look at things in three-month windows, and try not to get caught up on “making schedule”. For those who like to see what we’re up to, I’d ask you visit the programming page on my main blog site.

DFD and Winterreise

Today’s topic is a “glorious pairing”. One of my first posts of my many blogging projects was an overview of Glenn Gould and Bach’s Goldberg Variations – a “glorious pairing” in its own right, that is to say an unavoidable association between a great artist and a great work he or she has made their own. As Gramophone’s James Jolly wrote in 2015, “[few] singers had such an intense relationship with a piece of music as the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau had with Schubert’s Winterreise”.

Winterreise (Winter Journey) is a song cycle setting 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller to music. It is the second of Schubert's two great song cycles on Müller's poems (with Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795). Both were originally written for tenor voice but are frequently transposed to suit other vocal ranges – the precedent being established by Schubert himself, as he performed these cycles with his friend, the baritone singer Johann Michael Vogl during the mid-1820s. Vogl, a literary and philosophical man accomplished in the classics, came to regard Schubert's songs as 'truly divine inspirations, the utterance of a musical clairvoyance.'

Fast-forward 150 years…

Music and poetry have a common domain, from which they draw inspiration and in which they operate: the landscape of the soul. Together, they have the power to lend intellectual form to what is sensed and felt, to transmute both into a language that no other art can express. The magic power that dwells in music and poetry has the ability ceaselessly to transform us.
(Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau)
According to the vintage recording site discogs, including re-editions, there are as many as 42 recordings available of DFD singing these 24 songs. Commercially, he recorded the work seven times (I read other places eight and even ten, but who’s counting…): in 1955, 1963 and 1972 with Gerald Moore, in 1966 with Jörg Demus later he partnered with, Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Brendel and in a final version in 1990 with Murray Perahia just after the baritone turned 65. There are, of course, numerous live recordings, performances not originally planned for release on disc: these include one from 1948 with Klaus Billing, a 1952 performance with Hermann Reutter and one the following year with Hertha Klust.

Clearly there are many recordings of DFD singing Winterreise to choose from and in order to keep to the “spirit” of Public Domain sharing, I have uploaded a “Live” performance of DFD and Gerald Moore from a French Radio recording at the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades made on July 3rd 1955.

In a quirky twist of fate, the performance venue suffered a momentary power failure during ‘Der Lindenbaum’, and the set ‘borrowed’ the track from the 1953 Berlin Radio recording made (in a noticeably different acoustic) with pianist Hertha Klust which I referred to earlier. As you might expect, this Winterreise has much in common with the 1955 EMI studio recording.

According to reviewer Richard Wigmore, “[…]Fischer-Dieskau gives a performance unsurpassed in its abandon, its taunting bitterness and its massive, youthful anguish. No singer before him had ever probed the text as searchingly, or used such a vast palette of colours. True, there are moments of what some will hear as melodramatic over-emphasis. But more than in that 1955 studio recording, the startling extremes of expression – say, the hysterical anguish at the climax of ‘Der greise Kopf’ – here seem completely spontaneous. Gerald Moore is as always a perceptive partner, though the rather unfocused piano recording does his beautiful cantabile touch no favours. pNonetheless, this ] performance demands to be heard, and not just by F-D completists.”

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Winterreise (Winter’s Journey), D. 911 [op. 89]
Cycle of 24 lieder based on poems by Wilhelm Müller

No. 1 Gute Nacht: Fremd bin ich eingezogen
No. 2 Wetterfahne: Der Wind spielt mit der Wetter fahne
No. 3 Gefrorne Tränen: Gefrorne Tropfen fallen von meinen Wangen ab
No. 4 Estarrung: Ich such im Schnee vergebens nach ihrer Tritte Spur
No. 5 Der Lindenbaum: Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
No. 6 Wasserflut: Manche Trän' aus meinen Augen
No. 7 Auf dem Flusse: Der du solustig rauschtest
No. 8 Rückblick: Es brennt mir unter beiden Sohlen
No. 9 Irrlicht: In die tiefsten Felsen gründe lockte mich ein Irrlicht hin
No. 10 Rast: Nun merk ich erst, wie müd ich bin
No. 11 Frühlingstraum: Ich träumete von bunten Blumen
No. 12 Einsamkeit: Wie eine trübe Wolke durch heitre Lüfte geht
No. 13 Die Post: Von der Strasse her ein Posthorn klingt
No. 14 Der greise Kopf: Der Reif hat einen weissen Schein mir
No. 15 Die Krähe: Eine Krähe war mit mir
No. 16 Letzte Hoffnung: Hie und da ist an den Bäumen manches bunte Blatt zu sehn
No. 17 Im Dorfe: Es bellen die Hunde
No. 18 Der stürmische Morgen: Wie hat der Sturm zerrissen des Himmels graues Kleid
No. 19 Täuschung: Ein Lieht tanzt freundlich vor mir her
No. 20 Der Wegweiser: Was vermeid ich denn die Wege
No. 21 Das Wirtshaus: Auf einen Totenacker hat mich mein Weg gebracht
No. 22 Mut: Fliegt der Schnee mir ins Gesicht
No. 23 Die Nebensonnen: Drei Sonnen sah ich am Himmel stehn
No. 24 Der Leiermann: Drüben hinterm Dorfe steht ein Leiermann
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
Gerald Moore (1-23) and Hertha Klust (24), piano
Radio broadcast recordings, 1955 (1-23) and 1953 (24)
INA Mémoire Vive IMV058
Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/01WinterreiseLeVoyageDhiver