Peter Mattei has won great acclaim as a singer with unusual dramatic gifts, appearing on the world’s leading stages in complex operatic roles such as Don Giovanni, Billy Budd and Eugene Onegin. On the present disc he takes on a no less complex character in the Lieder canon: the traveller in Schubert’s Winterreise. In this cycle, Schubert returned to the poet Wilhelm Müller, whose poems he had set some years earlier, in his other great song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin. Müller’s texts revolve around a young man who after being rejected leaves his village and heads into the desolate, snowy countryside. In the course of the cycle he experiences loss and an aching loneliness interrupted by fleeting glimpses of hope, but ultimately the landscape through which he is moving is coloured by alienation and despair.
Müller died thirty-two years old in 1827, the very year in which Winterreise was composed – and Schubert himself died the following year, still making revisions to the last of the songs while on his deathbed. When Schubert invited his closest friends to a gathering in order to listen to the cycle he called the songs ‘gruesome’, and according to one witness the audience was shocked by their sombre mood. In this recording, Mattei brings all his interpretive skills to bear. He is supported by the piano of Lars David Nilsson, which reinforces the different moods and characters of the twenty-four songs and often assumes the role of a narrator, alongside the singer.