Winterreise, or Winter’s Journey was composed in 1827, just a year before Schubert’s premature death. The song cycle contains some of his greatest music – by turn highly emotional, desolate and spare, and with a sense of alienation and loss that makes the listener shudder even after repeated hearings.
Schubert was especially proud of these songs, writing to his friend and fellow composer Josef von Spaun: ‘I will sing you a cycle of eerie songs. I am keen to see what you will make of them. They have affected me more than any other songs’. The reaction of von Spaun and those gathered to hear the first performance was one of shock. The gloom and desolation of the landscape the traveller sings of, recounting happier days in the summer of love, now love lost, the bare trees, the snow, the dogs chasing him out of the village, the crows in the trees, the organ grinder playing his haunting tune in a swirl of snow left them perplexed.
Schubert’s sound world here is not far removed from Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder some 80 years later. If he had lived beyond his 31 years the mind boggles at what he would have produced.
Winterreise stands supreme in the world of song as the greatest collection of songs ever written.
- A fortepiano by Conrad Graf dated 1827 is used, to recreate as closely as possible the sound heard at the first performance.
- Booklet notes and sung texts included.