Roderick Williams and Christopher Glynn, Lakeside, Nottingham, 4****: by William Ruff



Roderick Williams (baritone) and Christopher Glynn, piano


January 31 2019


Lakeside, Nottingham




Review: William Ruff



Schubert’s Winter Journey in a vivid English translation


There are normally just two in the partnership that is Schubert’s Winterreise: the composer and the poet Wilhelm Müller whose 24 poems tell the story of man who has loved and lost and who trudges through the snow towards a non-existent destination, with fire and ice burning in his heart.

However, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Christopher Glynn introduced a third into this musical marriage in their performance on Thursday: multi-talented man of words and music Jeremy Sams who has turned Müller’s words into English and given them an immediacy usually lost on a non-German speaking audience.

And this is good news for anyone worried about the irrelevance of classical music to the young.  Williams and Glynn have been touring around schools, bringing Schubert’s great song cycle to a new generation.

Winterreise is an enormous challenge for any singer, requiring not only a dark beauty of sound but also huge reserves of vocal stamina and a capacious memory.  The 24 songs take 80 minutes to perform – without a break – and their journey into man’s heart of spiritual darkness takes its toll on the emotions too, both of performers and audience.

Roderick Williams is one of this country’s finest operatic baritones and his acting ability shone through every song.  The bleak trudge of the wanderer’s footsteps was vividly captured in the opening ‘Good Night’ as the singer expressed his deep sense of lost happiness, the song ending like a knife twisting in a wound.

This was a minutely imagined, revelatory performance from both singer and pianist.  The imagery was always sharply etched, the presence of crows, ice and will o’ the wisps always disturbingly real, the journey grimly compelling right up to the grinding hurdy-gurdy of the final, most desolate of all Schubert’s songs ‘Der Leiermann’.


Roderick Williams (baritone) and Christopher Glynn, piano

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