This is an interesting one, and not, probably, the place most of us would - or ought to, for that matter - start if you're a newcomer to 'Winterreise' (for that I'd recommend the classic Schubert: Winterreise by Fischer-Dieskau or Schubert: Winterreise for a more recent recording by Christian Gerhaher, whom I rate very highly indeed.) Nevertheless, if you already know the work, and your German is up to scratch, this is well worth a listen.
The premise is pretty simple: Martin Rummel, an Austrian cellist, has arranged the work for cello and piano, and has given the words to a speaker, in this case, Xaver Hutter. The effect is striking. I found myself thinking about the poetry in a wholly new way, as, until now, I'd never been able to separate the words from Schubert's melodies, even if I read them out loud. Hutter's voice is keen, at times capricious, humorous, and always deeply insightful into the nuances of the text. Some poems are surprising - 'Wasserflut', for example, begins almost offhandedly, and 'Irrlicht' speaks in the voice of a blase young man. Indeed, youth is characteristic of all of Hutter's performances, and rightly so: we may find him affected, over-enthusiastic at times, but that seems to me to be right for Schubert's wanderer. There are a few moments where the text used diverts from Schubert's alterations to Muller's original (erstorben, rather than erfroren, in Erstarrung) and occasionally a change of word changes the effect of a whole poem - the 'noch' in the last line of 'Im Dorfe' implies a sense of continuation, rather than the separation of the original text. Of all the performances, I found 'Die Post' most beautiful, a nervous, fragile questioning of his heart.
Rummel's playing is fine throughout, warm, sinuous in tone, and richly expressive, and it is a wonderful thing just to listen to the melodies which make this such a fine work. Always, though, I hear the words with the music, and can't help but miss raw vocal power, such as at the climax of 'Wasserflut'. The cello cannot hope to reproduce the subtle colours of a great lieder singer, and I found myself as a listener applying those colours in my own mind.
Is this worth thirty-odd quid, though? I reckon not. The recording is good, nicely spaced and fair to all participants, but thirty notes is an awful lot for this CD. Buy it over at Amazon.de, where even at today's exchange rates, you'll definitely get your money's worth.