lunes, 15 de junio de 2015

Fifty Shades of Winter: Werner Güra sings Schubert at the Philharmonie de Paris

Suzanne Daumann

For the lieder week-end during its Biennale of Vocal Arts in June 2015, the Philharmonie de Paris has invited the best interpreters of our time, among them the tenor Werner Güra, an exemplary Schubert singer. With Christoph Berner at the piano, as usual, he sings today this emblematic work, « Winterreise », the Winter Journey. Composed over a collection of poems by Wilhelm Müller, this song cycle stages this character so dear to Schubert, the Wanderer. A young man has been rejected by his lover, and now leaves the town to wander the winter country, bitter, angry, regretful, nostalgic... Müller had found captivating images for the whole range of human emotions, and Schubert has congenially translated them into music. Tender memories, wild despair, exhaustion, courage, they all keep following each other and clashing together in this cycle. Almost every lied has one or several brusque changes of emotions. Werner Güra gives as much importance to the words as to the notes he sings. Thus, he takes us on a real inner journey. His warm voice, with its baritonal depths, has acquired over time a less silvery, more amber timbre. With total command, he abandons himself effortlessly to Schubert’s winter world.  Like a storyteller, he describes the world, interpreting at the same time the characters that live in it. Christoph Berner and Werner Güra are well used to each other, they seem to understand each other telepathically. The pianist supports and underlines sometimes discreetly, evoking the sound of hooves of post horses, or the flutter of a crow’s wings. From the very beginning, this goodbye full of regret, tenderness and sarcasm, followed by anger in the second lied, until the final encounter with the strange hurdy-gurdy-man, Werner Güra grips his public. He whispers and thunders, he sketches landscapes and conjures up every shade of human emotion. Pianissimo, fortissimo, the notes follow each other, with the perfection of a soap bubble chain, each one fugitive thing of beauty, and each lied in its turn is an entity of its own. The two musicians are not afraid neither of silence nor of slow tempi. “Der Lindenbaum” comes with almost stationary slowness, and sometimes they allow moments of silence to enhance the power of the notes we just heard, or of those to come. Well might we know the work by heart, we wonder nevertheless how it will all end. It ends with a enigmatic character, a hurdy-gurdy-man on a frozen lake, whom the protagonist offers to accompany from now on, and with a little tear. It ends with a moment of meditative silence before the applause. Thunderous applause that finally buys an encore: the artists interpret once more “Frühlingstraum”, this bittersweet thing, where a tender dream contrasts with a harsh reality. We emerge into the Paris sunshine, a bit astonished, after this experience, to see the world go quietly about its business.

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