Stephan Loges & Eugene Asti – Winterreise

Schubert
Winterreise, D911

Stephan Loges (baritone) & Eugene Asti (piano)


Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 18 November, 2010
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

Like a diver barely disturbing the surface of the water, Stephan Loges’s “Winterreise” suddenly came into focus and plumbed the depths in a heart-stopping and direct ‘Der Wegweiser’ (The Signpost), which set the tone for the devastating effect of the remaining four songs. It wasn’t that the previous 19 had missed the point – far from it – but just that you knew for a certainty that at this point Schubert’s vision (setting poems by Wilhelm Müller) was fulfilled and that the thwarted lover had reached the point of unflinching self-awareness.

Scroll back to the opening, though, and the scene-setting first song was almost jaunty, far from the first trudging steps into a bleak landscape. Loges – apparently this was his first “Winterreise” – was right inside the deceptive lyricism of ‘Der Lindenbaum’, and piled regret against harsh reality in ‘Fruhlingstraum’ very convincingly; but while individual songs, particularly hallucinatory ones such as ‘Irrlicht’ (Will-o’-the-Wisp) and ‘Die Krähe’ (The Crow), sounded near to the unstable mutterings of an oblivious obsessive, you didn’t quite get the poor young man’s accumulative, curiously detached observation of his own unravelling – that is, not until the spellbinding and confident concentration of the five final songs; it was great Lieder singing.

Loges’s platform style is tactful and non-flamboyant, with a few flowing hand-gestures making maximum impact. His dark lower register gave ‘Gefror’ne Tränen’ a Wagnerian weight, and his mezza-voce singing was superbly controlled. Some of the anger (in ‘Die Wetterfahne’ – The Weathercock) and misplaced optimism (in ‘Die Post’) were over-emphatic rather than delirious, but he just about kept a lid on getting too overwrought. His centred voice has the poignancy, expressive range and colour to characterise the songs; but his overview didn’t quite hang together.

Loges and pianist Eugene Asti connected throughout, and together, the tempo of the opening notwithstanding, they sounded spontaneous and youthful. Britten said that in some songs the score looks as though “there seems to be nothing on the page”, and Asti did a fine job of giving voice to Schubert’s darkest and sparest imaginings.



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