Simon Keenlyside and Emanuel Ax wandered into Salzburg with a performance of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise in the Mozarteum.

Keenlyside captured Schubert’s dark songs on an emotional roller coaster, with a full resonant baritone mixed with soft tender tones.  Where Schubert made the piano accompaniment more lyrical, Ax did not so much accompany as provide a duet, particularly in the softer opening poem Gute Nacht but also in the more rousing Die Post and Muth as well.  The accompaniment worked less well in harsher piano sequences such as in Die Wetterfahne, where Ax hammered against Keenlyside.  But together they delivered the irony of Die Krähe and the morbidness of Der Lindenbaum, which I finally realized tonight is a poem about suicide and not actually about the shade tree.

The most depressive and impressive poem came at the end: Der Leiermann.  Keenlysides’s voice followed the old man out over the ice and Ax’s final notes trailed off.  It was left to the audience’s imagination to let the ice slowly crack and the poet, having resisted the temptation of suicide and having avoided being eaten by the crow now wandered off to the end.

Silence embraced the hall as the notes drifted.  When applause rang out, it continued for a dozen or more curtain calls.


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