A Journey of Deliberation: The Schreier/Richter Winterreise

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Recorded live at the Semper-Oper in Dresden on February 17, 1985, this Winterreise with the late tenor Peter Schreier and pianist Sviatoslav Richter first appeared on two CDs, coupled with Schubert’s C major D. 840 piano sonata. Philips also reissued it on a single disc. Either edition can be sourced from second-hand dealers, although the recording is readily available via download or streaming options. In an interview Schreier discussed Richter’s tempos. “I suppose with him I was just able to follow an often very slow speed because he willed me to. ‘Lindenbaum’ was extremely slow, but I was convinced by him of the rightness of the tempo, because of its relationship to the character of the songs beside.”

Collaboratively speaking, one suspects that Schreier’s altogether faster and more unified early 1990s remake with András Schiff reflects a truer meeting of minds. Yet somehow the Richter encounter casts a stronger overall spell. Take, for example, the third song, “Gefror’ne Tränen”. Schreier and Schiff treat the basic pulse flexibly, emphasizing word coloring. By contrast, Richter’s subdued steadiness provides a base from which the tenor’s legato phrasing takes wing.

Similarly, Schreier and Richter bring out the startling harmonic and dramatic shifts in “Auf dem Flusse” through inflection and nuance, with less underlining. And whereas Schreier and Schiff arguably articulate “Rückblick” to a fault, the song’s turbulent mood emerges all of one piece in the earlier recording. Here “Der stürmische Morgen” benefits from subtler tempo modifications in contrast to the Schiff version’s more noticeable shifts. Not surprisingly, Richter’s protracted pace for the final song inspires Schreier to follow suit, conveying a muted bleakness that emotionally ties in to their like-minded interpretation of the opening song “Gute Nacht”.

Among Winterreise recordings with tenor voices, I wouldn’t want to be without Schreier/Schiff, nor the youthful ardor of Mark Padmore with Paul Lewis. However, the journey of deliberation that Schreier and Richter undertake leaves an indelible impression.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Padmore/Lewis (Harmonia Mundi); Fischer-Dieskau/Demus (DG); Trekel/Eisenlohr (Naxos)

  • Peter Schreier (tenor); Sviatoslav Richter (piano)

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