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Schubert: Winterreise / Matthew Rose, Gary Matthewman

Schubert / Rose / Matthewman
Release Date: 04/09/2013 
Label:  Stone Records   Catalog #: 8022   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  Gary MatthewmanMatthew Rose
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUBERT Winterreise & Matthew Rose (bs); Gary Matthewman (pn) STONE 8022 (71:47 Text and Translation)

& Winterreise Sheet Music (Sibelius Computer Files)

First, allow me to offer my compliments and gratitude to Stone Records for restoring my faith that there are still companies out there not willing to cut corners or compromise standards of excellence Read more when it comes to producing recordings. I just hope there is still a market for this sort of high-quality product, and that Stone Records is able to recoup its costs and make a profit.

At a time when so many record labels are finding ways of making recordings on the cheap—directing us to websites, for example, to download opera librettos and song texts instead of printing them in the accompanying booklet—Stone Records has put out a gorgeous album in the form of a regular CD-sized hardcover book (so that it fits on one’s shelf), which contains between its covers an illuminating essay on Schubert’s Winterreise cycle, the complete texts of the songs in the original German with English translations, and full-page color photographs, all on thick, glossy paper in highly readable typeface.

But that’s not all. The disc purports to hold a key for accessing the sheet music to Winterreise via the widely advertised music writing software package, Sibelius . If you don’t have the Sibelius software on your computer, a note on the last page of the booklet instructs you to go to sibelius.com/scorch and download, for free, an application called Scorch , which will allow you to access the sheet music files.

The word “purports” is given in italics above because, sadly, it doesn’t work. I don’t have the Sibelius software package on my computer, so, doing my due diligence as a critic, I followed the booklet’s instructions and downloaded Scorch to my system. That step went fine. But what I was then expecting was some actual link or clickable icon to appear on the CD itself when I loaded it into my player, but the only thing on the disc were the 24 tracks corresponding to Winterreise ’s 24 songs. So now I was stumped. Where were the sheet music files I was supposed to be able to access?

My question led me to send an e-mail to Stone Records, and within very short order, I received a reply from Mark Stone himself. First off, he acknowledged that there was a problem. Just before the disc was released in 2012, he told me, Scorch was tested with the sheet music files and it worked fine. But since then, it seems that Scorch has not been updated for compatibility with changes to Internet browsers. Mark did, however, suggest a workaround and sent me explicit instructions on what to do. It’s a little complicated, but it works like a charm. Here are the steps to follow, but bear in mind that these instructions are specific to PCs running Windows 7. If you’re on a MAC or a PC running a Windows level less than 7, these instructions may not work.

1. Insert disc into your computer’s CD player.

2. Close any auto-play windows that pop up.

3. Click on the Start (Windows flag) icon at the bottom left of the task bar.

4. Select Computer

5. A window will display all of your drives. Right click on the CD drive (it should say Winterreise).

6. Select Open In A New Window.

7. Select Winterreise Scores folder.

8. Choose .pdf files or .sib files folder.

9. Choose a song file.

I thank Mark Stone for taking the time and effort to work through this with me, and I commend Stone Records not only for producing such a luxurious album but for giving the buyer something extra on top of it. But here’s the thing: Even this added feature would be totally irrelevant, if the performance of Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman were not outstanding; happily, it is.

Entering a field dominated by some of the truly great Lieder singers—Hans Hotter, Gerhard Hüsch, Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Matthias Goerne, and Olaf Bär, for a short list—Rose makes a daring gambit for this, his recorded debut. Obviously, there are other great voices that have taken on this greatest of all song cycles, but the reader may notice that all of the singers cited above have one thing in common; they’re all baritones, basses, or bass-baritones. Tenors have sung the role of the spurned suitor wandering forlornly across the frozen landscape—Peter Schreier and Christoph Prégardien, for instance—as have a few female singers—Christine Schäfer and Brigitte Fassbaender being prime examples. But here’s where one’s own mental picture of the drama comes into play.

The original keys and tessitura of the songs point to the vocal range of a tenor voice, just as they do for Schubert’s earlier cycle Die Schöne Müllerin . But the psychological and emotional state of Winterreise ’s wanderer to his predicament is very different from that of the adolescent’s reaction to his hurt and dashed hopes for love in the Müllerin songs. True, the boy throws himself in the river and drowns, but Winterreise ends much more chillingly with the jilted suitor following the tattered organ grinder off into oblivion.

Schubert was only 30 when he completed Winterreise in 1827, but he’d be dead in a year, and already in his short life, he’d experienced enough disappointment and dashed hopes to have developed a profoundly pessimistic outlook. Winterreise begins where Die Schöne Müllerin leaves off; the traveler in Winterreise has already passed into the abyss, figuratively speaking. Frozen and numb, he’s disembodied and detached from the horror of his own existence.

For me—and I realize this is a personal thing—the Müllerin songs are tenor songs, the Winterreise songs are baritone or bass songs. Female singers needn’t apply. Rejected, despondent women do themselves in with pills; they don’t throw themselves into rivers, like the emotionally unhinged kid in Die Schöne Müllerin , and they certainly don’t wander about barefoot on the ice, like the lost soul in Winterreise . No, Winterreise ’s songs speak uniquely to and about male loneliness, depression, and loss of the will to live, and it takes a man with a low-lying, dark voice to sing them.

Matthew Rose qualifies for the job. In fact, his is a true bass voice, not a baritone or bass-baritone. Listen to his “Die Krähe”; it’s blacker than the crow itself. It’s also slower than I’ve ever heard it taken, with the deliberate triplets in the piano providing a baleful counterpoint to the disturbing image of a vulture circling its prey. Rose and Matthewman’s tempos are by no means all this slow. In fact, while I don’t have all of the versions of Winterreise listed below, I stumbled on an interesting website (gopera.com/winterreise/recordings/overview.mv?sort=date), which lists over 100 recordings of the work, date recorded, and overall timing. Here is a partial selection from that list, sorted by timings. As per my comments above, I’ve limited the selections to just those that are sung by low male voices. Note: FD is Fischer-Dieskau.

Hüsch/Müller 1933 67:29

Prey/Sawallisch 1971 68:16

Prey/Engel 1961 68:45

Hamspon/Sawallisch 1997 69:32

FD/Brendel 1985 69:37

FD/Perahia 1990 71:22

FD/Demus 1965 71:24

FD/Moore 1962 71:28

Rose/Matthewman 2012 71:47*

Gorne/Johnson 1996 74:12

Hotter/Moore 1954 74:54

Bär/Parsons 1988 75:19

Holl/Grubert 1995 76:28

Van Dam/Baldwin 1990 78:11

*The average timing works out to 71:57, which puts this new version by Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman just 10 seconds shy of the exact middle. Of course, total timings for the whole cycle don’t tell much about tempos for individual songs, and they tell nothing at all about interpretation. But after living with Rose and Matthewman for several days, I can tell you something about their tempos and interpretation, as filtered, naturally, through my subjective reactions.

The reason that the performance falls almost precisely at the timing median is that the slow songs are generally a bit slower than the norm, while the fast songs are generally a bit faster, thus balancing each other out. As for interpretation, I can’t name another singer who is more expressive and who invests the words with greater weight and meaning than Rose. I have nothing but the highest regard for Fischer-Dieskau, and have long enjoyed his recordings with Moore and Brendel, but it seems to me that when the singer wants to make a dramatic point, his voice goes dry or throaty and he tends to hoot. There’s none of that with Rose. The voice is powerful and dark but very smooth, and it never loses support or turns weedy on the lowest notes. Dramatic points—and there are plenty of them—are made less through varying the timbre of the voice than they are through variations in dynamics and by agogic (i.e., durational) accents.

It may sound like a contradiction in terms to call Rose’s performance both poignant and chilling, but his ability to express heartbreak and horror simultaneously makes this, for me, the most compelling Winterreise I’ve ever heard. This may be Rose’s debut recording, but he’s no stranger to the opera stages of La Scala, Covent Garden, and the Met. His partner in this enterprise, Gary Matthewman, is an indescribably sensitive accompanist, responsive to every inflection in the vocal line and making more of his part than many a veteran pianist in this extraordinary cycle. This gets my highest possible recommendation: five gold stars.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Winterreise, D 911/Op. 89 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Gary Matthewman (Piano), Matthew Rose (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Top Notch Schubert October 12, 2013 By Joseph Lieber, MD (Great Neck, NY) See All My Reviews "This is certainly top notch from the point of the music and the performance. Rose and Matthewman give a beautifully sung and played Winterreise. The phrasing and moods are beautifully expressed in this haunting performance. The packaging and sonics are first rate. Most listeners will likley have many recordings to choose from. This one should be at the top of the shelf. A must have!" Report Abuse
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