If you consult a copy of the Schwann Record and Tape Guide from about 1975, you will discover that at that time, only a handful of recordings of Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise were available at the time. There were recordings by the great German baritones Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hermann Prey. If you wanted to listen to something a bit different, there was an excellent recording by the French baritone Gérard Souzay. And if you wanted to listen to something really, really different, there was a recording by the English tenor Peter Pears, accompanied on the piano by Benjamin Britten.
In the years since then, the selection of Winterreise recordings has virtually exploded. Today, Classical Archives offers you the opportunity to listen to not only the old touchstone recordings by Fischer-Dieskau and Prey, but to recordings of the song cycle by singers who include Christian Gerhaher, James Gilchrest, Matthias Goerne, Wolfgang Holzmeier, Peter Schreier, Christoph Pregardien, and even the much-discussed recording by the superstar German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. All those recordings are available for unlimited binge-streaming for members of Classical Archives. What an opportunity to compare and contrast different interpretations of this monumental, and monumentally troubling Schubert cycle.
The Winterreise (“Winter Journey”) by Schubert, if you do not know it, does not depict a happy winter outing. It describes a solitary winter journey on foot by a man who is leaving a town where he was once happy. At the end of his journey he encounters an organ grinder who most people believe is death. No, not a happy excursion like most of us like to take this time of year. But taken in sum, the 24 songs of Winterreise offer a profoundly moving exploration of love, loss and loneliness.
The many recordings on Classical Archives offer the opportunity for exploring interpretations of the Winterreise by many of the leading singers of both today and the past.