|Baritone Ulrich Hartung|
The lengthy program notes reveal that Maestro Hartung wrote a dissertation in his salad days, analyzing the original order of Wilhelm Müller's poems which was altered by Herr Schubert. This is undoubtedly of interest to scholars but of little value in the appreciation of this profoundly moving cycle.
We are not even complaining about the prosaic photographic projections by Adryan Hartung (probably a family member) which seemed to be multiple views of Central Park. They were inoffensive and barely distracting.
We have no quarrel with Stefan Kozinski's orchestration of the work because it gave us something to listen to as we tried to close our ears to the gravel-voiced Mr. Hartung whose phrasing and intonation were equally deplorable. If he was ever a singer he is not one now. We cannot even praise his diction since it sounded as if he, like Demosthenes, had a mouth full of pebbles. Final consonants were often missing. To make matters worse, his stage presence involved a lot of distracting flapping of the arms which appeared to be an attempt to show that he felt the music deeply. Who are we to say that he didn't?
We exempt the wonderful pianist Juan Pablo Horcasitas who also conducted the ensemble in a most unusual orchestration. Eric Lemmon played the viola and Lenae Harris played the cello. There were a number of wind instruments providing some coloration to the elements of nature mentioned in the text; the versatile Shelly Bauer played clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and saxophone; Lis Rubard played a very recalcitrant Flügelhorn and French Horn.
We reviewed a number of "Winterreise"s this year that ranged from good to extraordinary. This was the first that was truly egregious. When the singer picked up the saxophone for "Der Leiermann" we wanted to crawl under our chair. The next time we take a winter's journey we want to take it with a fine singer. This is one trip where we could say "I wish I'd stayed home".
© meche kroop