The motives for dealing with Franz Schubert’s great song cycle “Winterreise” are manifold and do not only refer to the interpretation by singer and pianist. Composers have repeatedly approached this work, and continue to do so, in order to create something completely new from it – such as the version by Hans Zender – or to enable a larger audience to access this music. On Monday at the Brucknerhaus in Linz, such a winter journey variant could be experienced with Martin Achrainer, the Semiseria Tübingen choir under the direction of Frank Schlichter and Bernadette Bartos on the piano.
Gregor Meyer, director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Choir, has arranged Schubert’s immortal songs for soloists, choir and piano, taking very different paths in the process. Sometimes the chorus is just a background sound and stays in the background, sometimes the effort is reduced to atmospheric humming and the design of the prelude and postlude. At other times, something like an independent choral movement is created, in which the soloist only occasionally gets something to do (e.g. very impressively in No. 13 “Die Post”), then again the chorus takes over the entire song (e.g No. 18 “The Stormy Morning”). And right in the middle the original sounds.
It may be an open question whether everything is always conclusive, but this version certainly reveals its charms. Martin Achrainer has built up a very close relationship with Schubert’s original over the past few years and on this evening he was also enthusiastic about this version with its overly clear diction – a very personal, but completely understandable interpretation that puts the word on the scales in its setting.
Bernadette Bartos acts skilfully as a versatile and intensive piano partner. The Semiseria Tübingen choir from Baden-Württemberg often impressed with their fine sound and great commitment, but did not always seem to stay on the right track in terms of pronunciation and the associated vocal coloring. Still, an impressive overall performance.