Wolfgang Holzmair offers intense 'Winterreise' for Shriver Hall Concert Series
When Franz Schubert was feeling down, we're talking way down. And no composer could capture the heart of despondency the way he could in song, especially in "Winterreise."
Depression never sounded more beautiful.
The 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller he chose convey a chilling case of someone who has his love, and his way. This wintry journey, which, in a good performance, seems every bit as physical as it is emotional and metaphorical, achieves a profound depth.
On Sunday evening, Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmair sang "Winterreise" in a Shriver Hall Concert Series presentation, accompanied by American pianist Russell Ryan.
There was some disappointment. Holzmair's voice sounded thin and nasally (a cold, perhaps?), and it was pushed to the limit in the most drama-laden songs, such as "Der sturmische Morgen" and "Mut." But, in the end, the singer ...
Highlights included the final outbursts of "Aif dem Flusse"; the carefully calibrated contrasts of mood in "Fruhlingstraum"; the subtly conversational articulation in "Die Krahe"; the white tone produced in "Der Wegweiser."
And the incredible final song, "Der Leiermann," conjuring the image of a hurdy-gurdy man playing on with icy fingers while people ignore him and dogs growl, found Holzmair phrasing incisively.
The pianist proved an able partner, but tended to favor technical clarity and concentration over tone color and and expressive personality.
The audience, given translations of the texts, rustled noisily with every page turn. Judging by the flashlights that lit up parts of the auditorium, several people struggled to read the material. Naturally -- does no one hear the perennial pleas of a poor critic? -- the hall was left much too dark.
Until organizations can afford some version of supertitles for lieder recitals, making printed versions unnecessary, they have simply got to get over a fear of lighting. We are all adults. We don't have to listen in the dark in order to feel we're getting a proper classical music experience.
PHOTO BY GABRIELA BRANDENSTEIN