2019.11.19, Recital, Vienna State Opera

Vienna State Opera

Recital – Winterreise

19 November 2019, 20.00 hrs

Simon Keenlyside, baritone

Thomas Adès, piano


Schubert: Winterreise, D911

An interview with Simon about his interpretation of Winterreise has been published in the Vienna State Opera Prolog magazine. Click here to read the original German text and an English translation.


Photo Gallery

Sound bites

onlinemerker, 20.11.19, Christoph Karner

“…Simon Keenlyside gestaltete das Werk tief empfunden, in perfektem Deutsch, vollkommen natürlich und ungekünstelt. Die Idealinterpretation, die nicht hoch genug gelobt werden kann, wurde von dem großen Musiker Thomas Adès  am Klavier mitgeformt.

Endloser Applaus, es war ein großes, ergreifendes Erlebnis…”

“…Simon Keenlyside shaped the work with deep emotion, in perfect German, totally naturally and unaffected. This ideal interpretation, which cannot be praised highly enough, was performed in collaboration with the great musician Thomas Adès  at the piano.

Endless applause. It was a great and moving experience…”

classicstoday, 21.11.19, Jens F Laurson

“….And yet, there was something greatly touching, moving in his performance. The struggle – both real and interpretive – was fascinating. The color in his voice was like soot in the back of his throat. The phrasing morose, the German absolutely perfect. Honesty and vulnerability in close proximity made for a superb “Frühlingstraum”…..”

onlinemerker, 21.11.19, Helena Ludwig

Translation by Gudrun

“…..Franz Schubert verfasste den Liederzyklus „Die Winterreise“ 1827, ein Jahr vor seinem frühen Tod mit nur 31 Jahren nach Gedichten von Wilhelm Müller. Es ist der wohl meistinterpretierteste, am öftesten aufgeführte und auf Tonträgern veröffentlichte Liederzyklus weltweit. Demnach also wohlbekannt. Trotzdem war ich von der Interpretation von Mr. Keenlyside sehr überrascht. Noch nie habe ich dieses Stück so innig und bewegend gehört, mit einer berührende Körpersprache, die die Zerrissenheit, das Hadern, Leiden, lieben und Hoffen sehr eindringlich nahe bringt. Oftmals bricht die Stimme, manchmal ist es nur ein leises Hauchen und dann wieder kraftvoll und raumfüllend. Extrem beeindruckend war für mich „die Krähe“ und der finale „Leiermann“, der mich zu Tränen rührte. Das das wohl auch das restliche Publikum so empfunden hat, zeigte die lange Stille im Saal nach dem verklingen des letzten Tons… Es gab keine Zugaben, was auch in keinster Weise gepasst hätte, aber es war rührend zu beobachten wie Simon Keenlyside einmal in die Knie ging um den Bühnenboden der Staastsoper zu tätscheln und ein anderes Mal den roten Vorhang. Danke für dieses beeindruckende und bewegende Konzert…”.

“…Franz Schubert wrote the song cycle “Winterreise”, based on poems by Wilhelm Müller, in 1827, one year before his untimely death at the age of 31. It is probably the most frequently interpreted, performed and recorded song cycle in the world and thus well-known. Nevertheless, I was very surprised by Mr Keenlyside’s interpretation. Never before have I heard this piece so heartfelt and moving, with a touching body-language that reveals the inner conflicts, quarrelling, suffering, the love and hope of the wanderer very vividly. Often the voice breaks, sometimes it’s just a soft breath and then it’s powerful and room-filling again. Extremely impressive for me were “Die Krähe” (The Crow) and the final “Der Leiermann” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Player), which moved me to tears. The long silence in the hall after the fading of the last note showed that the audience felt the same way…

There were no encores, which would anyway not have been appropriate, but it was touching to watch Simon Keenlyside kneel down to pat the floor of the State Opera one time and the red curtain another time. Thank you for this impressive and moving concert….”

The following two reviews of Winterreise have been published in Austrian newspapers. There is no online version available, but the German text of the reviews can be accessed via www.pressreader.com at the links below:

Kultur, 21.11.9, Susanne Zobl, via www.pressreader.com

Translation by Gudrun

Mirror of the Soul

“…There are evenings when, after a performance of Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise”, it takes some time to find your way back into the real world. These are rare but they are the most exciting thing a critic can write about. Simon Keenlyside offered one of these evenings at the Vienna State Opera.

The British baritone rendered unnecessary questions such as whether this song cycle needs an intimate setting. His compatriot, the composer Thomas Adès, was an interesting accompanist at the piano, who astonished with delicate understatement or bizarre introductions that bordered on deconstructions. But that somehow matched the interpretation of this exceptional singer.

He turned the stage of the State Opera into a desolate landscape of the soul. But this happened only little by little during the course of Schubert’s setting of the 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller. Nervous, with dance-like movements, he set off on his way with great sensitivity. In a virtuoso manner,  through his interpretative skills he made up for the fact that his baritone repeatedly became rough at the top of the register.

He performed the songs in impeccable German as an intense singing actor and granted insights into the deepest abysses of the soul. Brilliantly, he wavered between delusion and despair. His dialogue with the river was the purest emotion. He faced the “Leiermann” calmly, thus leading the audience into another world. Ovations….”

Kronen Zeitung, 21.11.19, Florian Krenstetter, via pressreader.com

Translation by Gudrun

Keenlyside, Adès with Schubert

“..Two great artistic personalities performed together in a soloist concert at the Vienna State Opera: Simon Keenlyside (baritone), a darling of the audience, and composer Thomas Adès (piano), who successfully conducted his opera “The Tempest” in Vienna in 2015, presented Schubert’s “Winterreise”. Schubert’s “Winterreise” is the supreme discipline of lied singing. This musical setting of two dozen poems by Wilhelm Müller is not only a purely musical challenge for the respective interpreters (and also for the pianist). It also seems to demand a kind of claim to maturity in terms of “content”, and thus philosophy of life, which cannot easily be ignored.

The versatile baritone Simon Keenlyside perceives “Winterreise” “much more as a mirror in which most people find essential facets of their own lives: falling in love, broken relationships, homelessness, worries about money and the future, joy, sorrow, despair, hope, loneliness etc. Everyone in the audience is addressed directly.” Yes, that’s true: Keenlyside takes the enthusiastic listener by the hand as he walks the rough, inhospitable winter landscapes. You can literally feel the snow on your face. He recreates perfectly elaborated scenes of human emotions – almost an evolutionary history of the human soul in miniature.

Composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès is a sound accompanist…”

Der neue Merker, December 2019, Ursula Szynkariuk

                 (The translation below is of an article published in the December Merker. There is no online link to the German text…)

Translation by Gudrun

19 November: Soloist concert


A WINTERREISE that left nobody cold

 “The cycle of 24 songs Winterreise by Franz Schubert from poems by Wilhelm Müller is very demanding /challenging for a singer. Not only does he have to cope physically and mentally with the whole cycle without an interval; it also contains so many variations of mood and possibilities of interpretation that they demand everything of the voice. The English baritone Simon Keenlyside, who is extremely popular with the Viennese operatic audience, has sung Winterreise about 500 times, as can be seen from the programme. You can feel that he is imbued with it. And yet his interpretation creates an impression of spontaneity.

Without any stage pose, in simple, one might say, hiking clothes with open shirt collar, a little jumpy or nervous, he walks onstage and begins with Fremd bin ich eingezogen (I came here as a stranger), as if in self-reflection. And it is as if all the images and feelings of Schubert’s composition were reborn within him, as if he experienced them anew and reflected on them. Thought finished in song … Keenlyside sees not only the dark sides of death in the songs but “a cycle about the difficulties of life and not a cycle about death!” Not only shadows, but also light, even if, on closer inspection, it might turn out to be an Irrlicht (will–o’-the wisp). He sings about the many vain attempts man makes in life and their failure: “And that’s exactly what Winterreise is about: to move on.” Also, the Leiermann (hurdy-gurdy player) is not necessarily Death for him. His voice seems to follow him of its own accord from a hopeful forte to an almost whispered tone. And the audience follows each of his steps with fascination. The text by the poet Wilhelm Müller, who also died at an early age and whom Schubert held in high esteem and set to music frequently, is of great importance here. It is Schubert’s music, though, that gives the text its full depth. And one has to admire the beautiful diction of the artist, whose mother tongue is not German.

The subtly balanced piano accompaniment of the composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès, whose opera The Tempest is still remembered well at the Vienna State Opera, followed the singer in perfect harmony. Frequently the piano also preceded the singer and created an atmospheric sound image of the song that followed. Adès played in a finely modulated way with attention to the smallest detail in complete harmony with the singer and was never dominant.

The audience was totally enthusiastic about this very special version of Winterreise and gave lively applause to the two performers, who embraced each other onstage at the end.”





























{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Suzanne December 7, 2019 at 2:32 am

Thank you Mr Keenlyside and Mr Ades for an utterly haunting performance. I will always remember it.

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