QCD 9306 - WINTERREISE
Njål Sparbo - bassbaritone
Einar Steen-Nøkleberg - piano
Njål sparbo used 10 years studying Schubert's Winterreise. He travelled to Germany several times to work with Hans Hotter, Kurt Moll and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - three major interpreatators of this songcycle. After a concert tour with Winterreise Sparbo was prepared to proceed with this first Norwegian recording.
Producer: Njål Sparbo
Digital editing: Njål Sparbo
Recording: Birger Sparbo, Victor Engholmen
Recorded at Høvikodden Kunstsenter, 1995
Released in 1996 by Quattro AS, Oslo, Norway
TOTAL PLAYING TIME 72:45
1 Gute Nacht
2 Die Wetterfahne
3 Gefrorne Tränen
5 Der Lindenbaum
7 Auf dem Flusse
13 Die Post
14 Der greise Kopf
15 Die Krähe
16 Letzte Hoffnung
17 Im Dorfe
18 Der stürmische Morgen
20 Der Wegweiser
21 Das Wirtshaus
23 Die Nebensonnen
24 Der Leiermann
Winterreise is a true work of art. However you approach it, whether from an emotional, psychological or existential standpoint, these songs will constantly awaken new thoughts and give fresh insight. You could spend a whole life trying to grasp the many facets of this work, but it will continue to remain there - sad, radiant, perfect and unattainable - a true reflection of life itself.
Wilhelm Müller is regarded as one of the first romantic poets in Germany. His knowledge of old German poetry and folklore was considerable and he was deeply influenced by the world of the ancient Greeks. In his diary Müller once wrote that his poetry was meant to be sung, but since he himself could neither sing nor play an instrument, he hoped that some kindred soul might put music to it. Müller died at the age of 33, in 1827, and would hardly have been aware that Schubert, using this very poetry had created the first cycles of songs in the lied tradition: Die schöne Müllerin (1823) and Winterreise (1827).
The last five years of Franz Schubert's life were characterised by ill health and a sense of dispiritedness, and he died in 1828, just 31 years old. Winterreise was one of the last works Schubert wrote, and he himself described these songs as the best he had ever composed - the most gruesome, and the ones he loved above all!Winterreise is a journey to the far frontiers of the human mind, with death close by at all times, implying as it does both the possibility of freedom and of peace, as well as being that fearful point of finality, where our deepest longings - and our very soul - cease to exist. The wanderer has been deceived by his lover, and leaves both town and people. He roves around in the frozen world of the mountainous countryside, coming nearer and nearer to his own distorted and lonely inner world. Impressions along the way are torn out of context and magnified to the point where they become quite unrecognisable.
The text is the wanderer's train of thought, often coloured by self pity and gloomy insight. He compares his passionate emotions with Nature's clear, powerful images - and is closely followed through the landscape by the genius of Schubert's musical comments and harmonies. He speaks to himself, to his heart and to his tears, to the snow and the frozen river, to the town, the crow and the dogs - in his desperate resolve to believe that as long as he finds words, he will not be lost. The only meaning he finds in existence is to continue his restless wandering.
The notes of the piano are the sound of his different feelings, and at the same time a kind of greater, alter ego which he is always in touch with. There is something soothing in the recognition of our suffering in such a dialogue, and it gives a certain dimension of brightness, even in the songs where the longing for death is strongest. But in the final song the piano's tone of voice has been reduced to that of a mechanical street organ. The journey has culminated in the great void.
Winterreise is about giving up hope. There are no answers and no reconciliation or optimism. But Müller and Schubert have forced the grief of human loneliness into a poetic and musical form and thereby given us a way of experiencing it that can enrich and change our lives.
By Njål Sparbo
FROM THE REVIEWS:
A very interesting production!
The more you listen to it, the more nuances you find ... fantastic diction ... incredibly well presented! A magnificent recording, a splendid cover! This is really a production to be proud of!
Kjell Hillveg, På sporet. May 19.th 1996
Exemplary Sparbo, brilliant Schubert
... I must give him my unreserved congratulations to a recording which leaves you with a sense of loss from the moment it ceases. It is in fact not just the work itself that so strongly spellbinds the listener in me, it is equally Sparbo's interpretation ... Sparbo's German is exemplary, and with this CD he takes the step into the international arena. Winterreise is about giving up hope, writes Sparbo inside the cover, and contradicts himself musically the moment you hear the music from the loud speakers! Here is an art of singing that far from stands in the queue of hopelessness - and we listeners can only hope for more from the same source, winter or no."
Espen Mineur Sætre, Morgenbladet. May 10.th 1996
Njål Sparbo's Winterreise: a great event ...
... in the interpretation of Lieder in this country, which should also cause reactions outside Norway ... a fully developed and strong interpretation ... which really takes its place amongst the available modern recordings of this work ... a brilliantly precise depiction of extreme mental states, verging on insanity, an expression of existential hopelessness ... all this exists within Sparbo and Steen-Nøkleberg's interpretation. One of Sparbo's most notable qualities is an exemplary, laser-sharp diction - he puts across all the verbal nuances in Wilhelm Müller's text. And yet he never forgets to sing it. I repeat: a great event. To be warmly recommended!
Harald Kolstad, Arbeiderbladet. April 30.th 1996