Susan Youens follows her excellent analyses of Schubert's lieder -- among the highlights of her work are books on "Die schoene Muellerin" in the Cambridge Music series and "Schubert's Poets and the Making of Lieder" -- with a complete analysis of *the* major song cycle, Winterreise. In this book, which is aimed at the knowledgeable layperson but which will not disappoint specialists in either poetry or musicology, Youens first deconstructs the cycle as a whole, looking at the poet, Wilhelm Mueller, and the sources of his texts; as well as giving a "macro" look at Schubert's setting of it. This first section would have been excellent enough. But then Youens analyzes each song, in both music and poetry. She finds links between the songs, helps guide the narrative, and, on nearly every page, points out features that can't help but inform anyone's understanding of this touchstone of Western culture.
Youens includes the first page of the score of every song, as well as the German text -- with the occasional changes by Schubert carefully noted and explained -- and the translation into English. Even if you don't speak German, I'd highly recommend reading Mueller's text while you recall the melody of the song. It really gives an appreciation of the art not just of Schubert but of Mueller as well, who Youens argues is unjustly viewed as a minor German poet these days. Her appreciation of Mueller made a believer out of me.
Five stars for this educational, well-written book that gave me a completely new view of a cycle I've listened to hundreds of times.