Spring was in the air for Friday evening’s opening of the Walpersdorf Castle Concerts, when Bo Skovhus (baritone) and Stefan Vladar (piano) set out on their journey through Schubert’s Winterreise – a truly exceptional interpretation that produced breathless moments and reaped enormous applause. Over many years they have carefully moved toward intimacy with this text, and the result is absolutely impressive. Skovhus completely resists the temptation to engage in ponderous theatrical illustrations; it is without pathos, practically in a narrative mode, that he renders the profoundly deep depressions through which the protagonist makes his way during the twenty-four songs. Always with just the right expression and timbre, the subtlest shadings, and nuanced coloration: intensive, gripping. Vladar is a congenial partner who does not play a subordinate role but seeks out dialogic structures while creating clear emphases and generating dynamic impulses. This also has a positive effect on the choice of the tempi: at the beginning (“Fremd bin ich eingezogen”) the journey immediately gets underway at a brisk pace, and later on time is found for weariness and exhaustion. It soon becomes apparent that what is involved is not at all a sumptuous display of romantic Weltschmerz but instead very real existential misery and need: alienation, expulsion, coldness, homelessness, loneliness, despair, resignation. Respect and endurance have paid off: Schubert certainly only rarely has sounded so unpretentiously gripping and so relevant to today’s world. On Sunday Bo Skovhus and Stefan Vladar again will perform as guests with their exceptional Winterreise at the Konzerthaus in Vienna.
Salzburger Nachrichten (Austria, 2016 04 16)
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