Roderick Williams Winterreise at Stratford

RODERICK WILLIAMS TAKES US ON A VERY SPECIAL WINTER JOURNEY

RODERICK WILLIAMS AND CHRISTOPHER GLYNN
Stratford Playhouse *****
The standing ovation which acclaimed the end of this amazing recital was genuinely well-deserved, and this grizzled, grumpy old critic happily joined in.
Roderick Williams and pianist ("accompanist" is too diminishing a word to use in such a context) Christopher Glynn had just delivered a mesmerising, totally involving account of Schubert's Winterreise, here in a new English translation by Jeremy Sams. This translation is elegant and sincere, true to the spirit of Wilhelm Muller's German original, and we are left wondering whether this Winter Journey was not an actual pilgrimage, but in fact a trawl of the soul.
And Williams certainly brought out this ambivalence, pacing around and through this in-the-round audience for the opening concert of the Stratford Music Festival, even sometimes sitting among us, communicating both with the audience and himself in a wonderful display of the body-language in which he is insurpassable. "What a voice!", someone commented to me as I left. "It's far more than that," I muttered.
But on the subject of the voice, Williams' use of his instrument is remarkable. I have heard him in French repertoire bringing an airy lightness to his baritone; here, in a song-cycle composed for a tenor friend of Schubert's, he cultivated mellifluous tenor timbres (impossible to tell where the head-notes began) as well as revealing darker depths.
Glynn's pianism was equally as gripping. He coloured the Fazioli piano (unlidded, so as not to obscure Williams' visibility) sympathetically, his timings between these 24 songs allowed all the drama and implications to tell, and the result of his partnership with Roderick Williams was very far removed from the stand-and-deliver, take-it-or-leave-it performances of even such greats as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, and Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.
Christopher Morley

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