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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Winterreise, D 911 (1827) [71:24]
Mathias Hedegaard (tenor)
Tove Lønskov (piano)
rec. 2018, Garnisons Kirke, Denmark
Sung texts with English translations enclosed

The lyric tenor Mathias Hedegaard is one of the foremost Danish singers, both as opera artist and recitalist. Almost ten years ago I reviewed a disc with songs by three of the most important Danish song writers of the 19th century, with the same accompanist as here, which hopefully still is available, and it is worth picking up for the songs as well as the singing. His voice is still in fine fettle when he now tackles one of the most challenging song cycles in the international repertoire, Schubert’s Winterreise. Few works in this genre have been so frequently recorded, and a new challenger has to compete – theoretically at least – with approximately 200 other versions, and new ones are being added almost monthly it seems.

Hedegaard’s reading of the cycle has many good features: his enunciation is good, he is deeply involved, he is very careful over nuances, he can colour his tone to underline moods – in Auf dem Flusse he adopts a suitably plangent tone, to give just one example – he employs rubato to good effect, in Einsamkeit and Der greise Kopf, and he can sing very softly and beautifully, as in Früglingstraum, for instance. But he also tends to be over-emphatic and never really relaxes, not even in Der Lindenbaum. His nuances encompass also hairpin dynamics in the extreme, resulting in a stressed syllable being strong while the following unstressed syllable becomes almost inaudible – to the detriment of the text. And this is not an isolated phenomenon but more or less a kind of permanent idiosyncrasy. Like other kinds of idiosyncrasies one gets used to them and here they definitively infuse life in the reading, there isn’t a dull phrase anywhere.

As in every good reading of this cycle the intensity increases in the second half, i.e. from Die Post and onwards, and this intensity has less to do with added volume than with deeper involvement. Das Wirtshaus and Die Nebensonnen are particularly touching. The total timing is almost 76 minutes which places this reading among the slowest, but while listening one never has a feeling that it drags.

The idiosyncrasy I mentioned above still worries me a bit, but even though I prefer other versions – Fischer-Dieskau, Hotter, Goerne, Bär – I still find this an honest and deeply felt reading that should satisfy many listeners. Mathias Hedegaard is well supported by Tove Lønskov and the recording is excellent.

Göran Forsling

Previous review: John France

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