Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gérard Souzay in Franz Schubert’s Winterreise

   The art song, in German called “Lieder” or in French culture named “mélodie” is probably most characteristic form of romantic music. It was composed yet by many composers of classical era, but even very interesting results achieved by Ludwig van Beethoven can’t change romantic assignment of song form. One of greatest song composers was Franz Schubert who created new formal shape for songs as romantic form. And songs are the most characteristic part of Schubert’s creative output. Although he was active in all forms of musical composition, Lieder became main medium for his creativity.
   The idea of romantic song, the practice of setting songs for stage performance aims the cycle of songs the upper formal structure. In Schubert’s creative output there are two cycles composed as a whole works, Die schöne Müllerin op. 25 (D. 795) and Die Winterreise op. 89 (D. 911), both basing on lyrical poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) and both referring to the hero’s dramatic condition after heartbreak. Third Schubert’s cycle Schwanengesang (Swan Song) was collection set by publisher after composer’s death. It was made probably just for profits, as previous cycles were selling out very well.

Gerard Souzay - Franz Schubert - Die Winterreise (1983)

   One of well established and executed performances of Schubert’s Die Winterreise is the rendition by Gérard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin. Gérard Souzay (1918-2004) was famous interpreter of French mélodie and chanson. He was valued lyrical baritone with perfect sense of style and clear narrative possibilities. A long list of his records comprises some about 750 titles. He was priced for songs of French composers Ravel, Fauré and Poulenc. Sometimes he was also criticized for his style as bourgeois. When asked to clear his performing ideas he said: “For me music is limpid and speaks for itself. I can only offer my emotions when I sing”. This attitude is giving his performances more universal and readable shape.
   From 1954 Gérard Souzay was performing and recording with collaborative pianist Dalton Baldwin. As wrote Roger Dettmer in, Gérard Souzay’s “presence onstage was elegantly handsome” and his artistry “quietened even chronic coughters”. In 1977 Gérard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin had recorded complete 24 songs from Winterreise for Pathe Marconi EMI, in 1983 has been reissued in the USA under the Musical Heritage Society label. Nice sounding voice helps him develop chamber emotions and narrative track of sad romantic storyline. This rendition is perfect example of creating the cycle as one piece out of consecutive poetic scenes as layers and accumulating emotions of every next song. Three and half of star for clever “bourgeois” style and high vocal culture.

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