This recording of the ultimate Schubert challenge for singers gives us a great performance by Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch. You imagine the traveller awe-inspiringly haggard and drawn like an expressionist figure, and the rough, sombre edge to Kaufmann's voice emphasises the dark palette of the songs. They are like 24 pieces of a jigsaw that shows the very portrait of the soul of one rejected in love and disconsolate, and each piece fills out an aspect of despair, while bothering little with concrete details as a realist would want. Schubert is at his most ineffably sad, and sometimes fierce, both of which Kaufmann captures to perfection. He and Deutsch have apparently been playing the cycle for several years, and you feel this is music they have travelled with themselves. Rather than an essay the notes take the form of an interview with both of them, in which there is an interesting divergence in how they read the last song about the hurdy-gurdy man. The music itself is ambiguous and strange enough in this song to be read in a number of ways, so you can't feel quite sure of where the traveller is left ... I'm sure there are many other remarkable versions - I have most recently listened to Kurt Moll (very deep) and Barbara Hendricks (affecting, although presumably not quite the sound Schubert had in mind). Both are very good but I would say Kaufmann is totally outstanding, and I doubt whether many can match him for rough-hewn vocal timbre allied to refinement in the way he gets the intensity of the songs. It brings tears to the eyes, and not from the cold!