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on 13 April 2010
Lately The Gramophone has lavished praise on the Winterreise of Mark Padmore, who brings to Schubert's great, mournful song cycle many years of musical instinct and training. I was interested in hearing a light lyric tenor attempt the work, since that is the voice Schubert wrote it for, but the price one pays is that the more desperate and anguished songs are somewhat shortchanged emotionally. fair or not, we tend to ascribe weightier feelings to weightier voices. Werner Gura's voice is just as light as Padmore's and youthful-sounding, too, as befits the narrator's age. But he has to his credit a moving Schwannengesang where Gura delivered anguish and passion with great emotional impact without owning what we think of as the "right" voice. for me, his artistry stands above Padmore's in the mastery of Lieder.

So I ran across Gura's new Winterreise with heightened expectations. The first few songs reveal what his strategy is. He takes pains to offer small nuances of phrasing to add interest to the repetitive strophic songs, and when given a chance, he dramatizes the songs with theatrical flair. Another prominent lieder specialist, Ian Bostridge, follows the same strategy, but Gura has the advantage of a more naturally beautiful voice, not to mention complete familiarity with his native language. When bostridge underlines the poetry, I feel that he's applying a studied gloss; when Gura does the same thing, it feels right because there's a felt connection between text and music. Comparisons are invidious, and others may take the reverse view. I think few could argue against the beauty and force of Gura's new version. It is tender and ouching from the outset and grows in stature until it reaches the eerie hushed catharsis of Der Leiermann at the very end. Nowhere along the way is any emotion faked or overblown into self-pity or melodrama.

Padmore's recording was extolled for having the accomplished soloist Paul Lewis as accompanist. I'd offer Christoph Berner, though far less known, as arguably finer. Lewis bends over backward to be unassuming, while Berner takes Schubert's piano part to be equal to the singer's part. One hears him as an independent voice, which was also true of Benjamin Britten when paired with Peter Pears in the most wrenching and emotionally deep Winterreise I know. Berner isn't quite Britten, finding less subtlety in this apparently simple music, but his musicality is a great asset here.

finally, gura must be praised for finding a variety of tones where so many singers wind up giving us an emotional landscape that is too uniform and plaintive. the lost, lonely youth becomes alive before our eyes, and that's the ultimate compliment in lieder singing. His Winterreise belongs among the best from the past.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2013
There is something very moving about Werner Güra's expressive tenor tone, he draws you into the music even when you don't understand every single word (though you get a very nice booklet with translation for every song). The sound of the fortepiano from Schubert's time is perfect bot for his voice and for the setting of this sing cycle.
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on 5 February 2015
Lately I am starting to discover the vocal side of classical music. After buying some CD's by Philippe Jaroussky I heard the Winterreise on the radio. Curious to hear more I did more research and came across this version. I love it, I also heard the famous other versions but this one struck me by tone and mood. The recording is crystal clear and Güra's voice is supple and persuasive. The fortepiano is not exactly from Schubert's era but it still has the fortepiano sound without the, often, out-of-tune sound so many fortpianos have of an older generation.
Compared to other recordings the mood of this one convinced me right away. To me it truly sounds like a young man who is desperate but tries to humour himself to drive out the demons. Schubert was young when he wrote it and he sung this piece himself and this recording re-creates this mood to me.
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on 24 May 2011
Technically almost faultless this is very convincing approach but to my ears just a bit too heroic for a work that should convey a sense of unhinged desperation and hopelessness. Still, a valid approach in many ways and beautifully recorded.
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on 26 September 2012
Really is !All the other`s previous recording`s have no meaning for me .
No one has`t before touch me so deeply, so dramaticly , as this chamber music duo. This is my Schubert !
Now i know , what Schubert mean, when he told to his friends in 1827:"Today my friends, i will sing for You dreadful songs."
Thank You Franz Schubert! Thank You Werner Güra and Cristoph Berner !
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