Apparently tenor Christoph Prégardien enjoys performing "non-standard" versions of Schubert's Winterreise; eight years ago he recorded his rendition of
Hans Zender's "composed interpretation", with Klangforum Wien. Now he joins with Normand Forget and his wind quintet Pentaèdre to perform Forget's chamber wind setting of this dark, melancholic, and "romantic"-in-the-truest-sense song cycle written by an ill composer whose creative skills nevertheless were at their most formidable.
The question here isn't how this setting for winds--with the clever and effective addition of accordion on someRead more songs--compares to the original voice/piano version; in the parlance of today's sports and entertainment stars, "it is what it is". In other words, it should be judged on its own merits--and you could easily argue that the often pungent sound and expressive combined timbral effects of these instruments enhances the texts and moods while very nicely complementing the voice.
There are many examples of this, but perhaps the best is found in the poignant last song, "Der Leiermann" (The Organ-Grinder), where the accordion and oboe d'amore really capture the flavor of the song's subject, the cold, the lonely atmosphere, the traveler's hopelessness. After the final bar, we're moved by the plaintive, lingering instrumental utterance, as well as by the uncertainty of the singer's fate; despair hangs in the air.
Prégardien is simply a master of this repertoire, his tone ranging from dark to light to bright with perfect control and consistency, phrasing and dynamics in hand with text and always mindful of Schubert's natural musical flow. Importantly, his intonation is impeccable--a sheer joy compared to, say, Fischer-Dieskau's approximations in the very exposed melodies of songs such as "Wasserflut".
The more I listened to this, the more I liked it; it's a credible and enlightening view that preserves the essential elements of Schubert's (and poet Wilhelm Müller's) creation while delightfully expanding the harmonic and textural palette, never taking the voice away from its primary role. In a way, this wind orchestration takes the songs from the formal parlor and appropriately moves them to the more folk-oriented scenes depicted in the poems--the streets, small villages, the graveyard, the coal-burner's hut--this new perspective bringing us into the songs from a different and always intriguing and entertaining angle. The excellent sound complements the whole package. Highly recommended!