Reviews: Schubert, WINTERREISE

A Master of the Undertones

ULM (sz) - Franz Schuberts "Winterreise" is more than "just another Lieder cycle." It is an evening full of richness, a major work of the Ramantic era and for many listeners an entire world of it's own, standing like an island in the sea of music. The interpretation which Daniel Lewis Williams, bass, and Thomas Hannig , piano, gave of this work in the Concert Hall of the Music School was fascinating.


Thomas Hannig und Daniel Lewis Williams
Thomas Hannig und Daniel Lewis Williams

The American bass, Daniel Lewis Williams, captured the Viennese spirit of this most Viennese of all Viennese composers as though he, himself, were an especially Viennese Bass. He possesses the ability to deliver the deep earnestness of Wilhelm Müller's twenty-four texts with perfect articulation of the German language while maintaining their romantic ironic undertones and broader spectrum of meanings. Because Williams doesn't overplay the veiled innuendos of the work, as is frequently done by less skillful interpreters, he was able to successfully plumb the depths of meaning in this work. Thomas Hannig on the grand piano struck the proper balance between reserve and the necessary ever present accompaniment: always highly musical even in the music's brilliant moments, he never succumbs to the temptation of merely rendering a demonstration of his technical brilliance.

The carefully chosen tempi furthered the unhurried and effortless revelation of Williams' immensely "large" voice. In its low range, as well as in its high range, Williams' bass is, without any breaks, vital.

In the beginning during "Gute Nacht" in D-minor, one was captivated by the dynamic variety of the interpretation of the four verses, particularly with the heightened intensity of the third verse, "Was soll ich länger weilen". Especially in the repetitious passages of the text, Williams uses such contrasts to great advantage.

Grandiose, were the piani of this bass! For example "Ei, Tränen, meine Tränen" in the third song was very moving. In "Erstarrung" in C-major . . . Williams' Legato was particularly organic while preserving the elasticity of the phrasing.

The contrast between a dramatic beginning attack followed by a musical "retreat" characterized "Rückblick" which was delivered at a brisk tempo. The "Frühlingstraum" composed in A-major successfully conveys Schubert's aura of deepest tragedy seen through a veil of apparent optimism. Especially moving was "Der Greise Kopf" with it's desperation at the very edge of insanity. And of course, "Der Leiermann" ideally rendered with tempo variations and effective pauses with its resignation and peace.


The voluminous Winterreise

Although Lieder recitals are not considered to be "in vogue" at the present time, Franz Schuberts "Die Winterreise" with Daniel Lewis Williams and Thomas Hannig aroused considerable interest.

"Die Winterreise" is a favorite program for dark voices and this is no doubt a good reason why the internationally known bass, Daniel Lewis Williams, included it in his repertoire. Williams' friend, Thomas Hannig, operatic coach at the Ulmer Opera House accompanied Williams in the concert hall of the Music Conservatory of Ulm. Together they mastered the 90- minute cycle of twenty-four songs effortlessly and convincingly.

From the first tone one is fascinated by this powerful and magnificent bass voice, which is so flexible and possesses a good piano as well as seemingly bottomless depth. Schubert's "Winterreise" with its dark, melancholy quality, only lightened occasionally in "Der Lindenbaum", "Die Post" and "Frühlingstraum", fascinates one more with each song through the ingenious texts by Wilhelm Müller. The accompanist must also satisfy high expectations, which Thomas Hannig masterfully accomplished. He played with the necessary reserve while maintaining a constant supportive presence and, in the piano solo passages, playing with remarkable variety of interpretation.

Having heard the CD recordings of Schreier, Fischer-Dieskau, Prey or Hotter one must first become accustomed to the extreme depth of tone quality of this performance, which presents several low E's and one even a D sharp. As the cycle progresses, Williams proves that his voice possesses a full, rich, brilliantly resonant high range. Deeply moving was the effect of the piani in "Die Nebensonnen". The great interpretive abilities of the singer were particularly manifested in the last son, "Der Leiermann".

The audience responded to Williams and Hannig's performance with many salvos of enthusiastic applause. One would have liked an encore but this is of course problematic for such a long cycle. This excellent "Winterreise" with the grandiose bass, Daniel Lewis Williams will be long remembered with great pleasure.

Carlhans Filius, SÜDWEST PRESSE, Ulm