Winner of the 2005 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, the Franz Schubert/Modern Music Competition in Graz, the Concert Artists Guild Competition, and the Joy in Singing Award, baritone Thomas Meglioranza, in this unabashed vanity issue, has given us one of the best modern recordings of Schubert’s genre-defining Winterreise. His voice is simply ravishing in all registers, a haunting, despondent, creamy, and melismatic instrument that seems tailor made for Schubert in general and this cycle in particular. Meglioranza’s impeccable diction serves to characterize every nuance of the text so to make subtle inflections and profoundly deep emotional connections to each of these wondrous songs. Uchida plays on an 1881 Steinway D Centennial, and accompanies with force, formidable sense of supporting the melody, and a cat-like ability to give depth and proper harmonic undergirding to the line—she is there at every moment, never dragging and never behind.
Schubert’s opus, published as Op. 89 in 1828, is a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller. It was written in two parts, about six months apart, and originally published that way. Schubert elevated the piano in this cycle, where his harmonies, always expressive of mood and setting, are taken to a new level, but this time with the additional of subtle and highly expressive rhythmic elements as well, something new in lieder writing that adds complexity and infinite gradations of expression to the setting as a whole. The work is gloomy, even tragic, but deeply redolent of the most esoteric qualities of high Romanticism, and the composer was very happy with it.
The qualities that we all like to hear in any Winterreise are present here in overwhelming quantities. As I said, this sumptuously recorded performance is engrossing and completely convincing from beginning to end. There are no notes but Meglioranza has seen fit to give us texts and translations. This is a first class issue all the way, and the established record companies are really going to be sorry they didn’t pick this one up. —Steven Ritter
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE:
"Thomas Meglioranza's light, well-groomed baritone gives a meticulously thought-through account of Winterreise, his excellent German and instinctive musicality engaging immediately with the text and the listener."
TIME OUT NEW YORK:
Schubert's lieder cycle Winterreise ("Winter Journey") can be a grim ride if approached as the marmoreal icon it's becom in the art-song world. One of the strengths of the fine new recording by baritone Thomas Meglioranza and pianist Reiko Uchida is that although the implicit tragic love story is keenly traced and elaborated over in the span of two dozen songs, a sense of youthfulness and recurring hope against the odds provides some respite from the potential gloom. Meglioranza mines any and every opportunity for variety in Wilhelm Müller's text, which is beautifully articulated. Uchida, playing on a gorgeous-sounding 1881 Steinway, provides consistently supple and responsive rhythmic and melodic support.
The New Jersey-raised Meglioranza is an integral part of New York's new-music scene; Uchida, a Californian graduate of Mannes and Juilliard, teaches at Columbia. Both have broad artistic curiosity and experience, but very specific stylistic insights that prove complementary. The baritone easily encompasses the required range; plusher voices have recorded these songs, but his command of textual and dynamic nuance proves compelling throughout--plus, a hint of tonal fragility at climaxes doesn't come amiss in this love-haunted work.
"Even though Thomas Meglioranza is an established operatic singer, his first recording on his own label is one of the great masterpieces of the art song: Franz Schubert's "Die Winterreise." Praised for his insightful singing of Schubert by no less a judge than Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Meglioranza has a personal warmth and ecstatic vocal quality that immediately brings his distinguished colleague to mind.
Accompanied by his frequent collaborator, pianist Reiko Uchida, Meglioranza sings with a convincing blend of rapt lyricism and wounded idealism, two characteristics that give "Winterreise" a heightened sense of tragedy that goes beyond mere heartache. The temptation to ignore the meaning of the words is strong, though, because Meglioranza's voice is almost too smooth and ethereal to stay grounded in Wilhelm Müller's dark texts for long. But pay close attention to the subtle expressions that Meglioranza brings to consecutive verses and to Uchida's controlled changes in dynamics and phrasing that communicate the emotional context and meaning.
The sound of the recording is clear and focused, giving the musicians credible presence in a natural acoustic. This disc is a promising beginning for Meglioranza's label, and one may hope that the rest of Schubert's lieder appear on it soon."--Blair Sanderson
THE STAR LEDGER: A self-released recording of Schubert’s popular "Winterreise" is a surprise hit from Thomas Meglioranza. An artist in residence at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., with credits at Opera Boston, the singer displays a supple, beautifully polished lyric baritone and musical integrity.
Throughout the "winter journey," Meglioranza stays true to his natural, youthful sound, finding ample expressive range without ever forcing or using breathy affectations that are all too common. His diction is impeccable and pianist Reiko Uchida is equally refined.
Together, they create a fresh and moving vision of lost love and harsh nature, beginning with the trudging verses of the opening song, in which they go from stoic to snarling. Their storytelling excels in the light-dark shifts of "Frühlingstraum." Meglioranza’s detachment as he observes his "frozen tears" makes him seem slightly — and fittingly — deranged. You can hear the sorrow in his voice in the exposed "Mein Herz" refrain in "Auf dem flusse," but he never overdramatizes the music, maintaining dignity and realism.
— Ronni Reich
REVIEW IN THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
I talk about Winterreise, among other things, in this interview with Elijah Ho in The Examiner.
Producer: Judith Sherman
Engineer: Louis Brown
Assistant Engineer: Jeanne Velonis
Photos: Laura Rose
The recording is currently available on Amazon, iTunes, and the very artist friendly and inexpensive CD Baby.
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This is our second recording of songs by our favorite composer. Here's our first recording.