Schubert: Winterreise

About the album

Joyce DiDonato and conductor-pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin join forces to take on one of the most brilliant song cycles ever written: Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter Journey). DiDonato, however, casts a different light on this beloved cycle of 24 songs in telling their story from the perspective of the woman, the lost love. Nancy Plum, Town Topics writes: “The question of what happened to the woman who sent the narrator on a tortuous journey was not answered in the Wilhelm Müller poetry from which Schubert drew the text, but DiDonato created a scenario onstage of being that woman, reading from the narrator’s journal and responding to the inherent despair.”

“What stood out was the heavy emotion that came through in her singing, as she lingered on a syllable here, pressed her tone there. She created vivid feelings with her contrasts” wrote New York Classical Review about Joyce Didonato’s interpretation.

Nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award

DiDonato brings a huge arsenal of vocal and emotional resources to bear that persuades about the novelty of her framing device while compelling one to listen and hear anew. It’s an interpretation that repays repeated listening, early highlights along the way –Frühlingstraum combining crystalline delicacy and cut-glass sharpness to poignant effect, Der Lindenbaum an exquisitely innocent lullaby in all but name – deepening in impact and meaning with each encounter.

Limelight Magazine

When great artists undertake Winterreise it is a transporting experience, and we’re lucky that DiDonato has added her interpretation to the performance tradition.

New York Classical Review

Few women sing Schubert’s desolate, passionate anti-odyssey of the rejected male lover, but when they do it can be memorable. Never more so than in this superb performance, where Nézet-Séguin is the perfect companion. DiDonato has a voice of rare beauty, but even more heartbreaking than the loveliness of her singing is her endlessly varied dramatic colouring of the text. Incomparable.

The Sunday Times

Drawing on her formidable range of vocal colour, DiDonato captures the drama within each song, and across the cycle... Any fan will enjoy the insight DiDonato brings. You might go back to your favourite tenor afterwards, but you’ll have thought about this masterpiece anew.

The Guardian

There’s a luxuriousness, not least in the healthy shine of DiDonato’s bright mezzo, that suggests these wintry episodes are being imagined from within the woman’s warm and cosy home, perhaps many years later. And it feels natural, in the context, to have moments of near-operatic grandeur: one imagines DiDonato collapsing dramatically to the ground in despair at the end of ‘Erstarrung’, for example.


Le « Winterreise » de Schubert réunit 24 mélodies sur des textes de Wilhhelm Müller évoquant le désespoir d’un jeune hommeau cœur brisé dans un paysage hivernal désolé. Principalement chantée par des hommes, cette œuvre admirable a stimulé le sens du défi de la mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato. Accompagnée parle pianiste (et chef d’orchestre)Yannick Nézet-Séguin elle nous raconte ce «Voyage d’hiver»intense et troublant. Enregistré au Carnegie Hall, à New-York, en décembre 2019, ce moment de grâce nous transporte et nous fascine plus que jamais.

La Dépèche du Midi

DiDonato has never sounded better. She moves flawlessly from mere whispers of sound to fortes with commendable ease, and dispenses the few quick figures that Schubert throws at her with the ease of a bel canto specialist. The recording itself is excellent, conveying the fabled Carnegie Hall acoustics and sense of occasion. Nézet-Séguin is DiDonato’s equal partner. The way he ends the second song, “Der Wetterfahne” (The weathervane) is as special as the manner in which he conveys the sense of flight in “Die Krähe” (The crow). He underscores the ominous essence of “Im Dorfe” (In the village), the mournful beginning of “Der Wegweiser” (The signpost), and the sacredness in “Das Wirtshaus” (The inn). Equally important, he knows exactly when to play the supportive accompanist and when to move to the foreground without attracting undue attention to himself. Of both him and DiDonato, one could ask for no more. From the very first song, the pain in DiDonato’s voice is unmistakable. So is the special care she takes with dynamics and word painting. Fully inhabiting the woman who is reading the young man’s final journal, her heartbreak occasionally impels her to slow down as the young man’ words sink in.

San Francisco Classical Voice

The opening Gute Nacht (track 1) is transposed down a full step to C minor, which blankets the song in a darker hue. The consistency of the accompanimental figure normally makes me see the pianist as a distant but reminiscent bystander, but Nézet-Séguin takes a more forward stance. He bends the tempos slightly at certain points and shapes the dynamics correspondingly – a fitting choice, given DiDonato’s equally emotive approach that introduces a raw heartache to the underlying plaintiveness. The duo plays extremely well to Schubert’s color changes, especially in places like the simultaneously delicate and heartfelt major section.

The Classical Review

Joyce DiDonato s’empare avec maestria de la partition, nous guidant air par air, comme autant d'étapes d’un voyage. La musicalité du chant et le chant de la musicalité se révèlent dès le premier air, grâce à l’expressivité de la voix, merveilleusement accompagnée par le piano de Yannick Nézet-Seguin, second guide de l’aventure. Les lieder s’enchaînent, telles les pierres d'un chemin. C’est aussi un voyage dans l’intime grâce à l’interprétation de la cantatrice qui insufflent des sentiments vifs, nous happant par une syllabe ou un ton sur lequel elle s’attarde légèrement, créant une émotion palpable par son chant, vecteur de l’humain dans ce cycle de 24 chansons pour voix et piano.

Opera Online

Ms DiDonato brings her considerable operatic experience to these songs. I hasten to add that she does not indulge in any unwarranted theatricals. But she identifies herself with the words and with the dramatic situation. Moreover, she knows instinctively which levers to press to invest the songs with just the right degree of drama and intensity. And notice that I said ‘right degree’; there’s no excess in this performance. The other striking thing is the abundant use of vocal colour. In particular, when she goes into chest voice it always enhances the music – and, indeed, the words. The use of colour means that when we get to ‘Der Leiermann’ and she drains her voice of most of its colouring - until almost the very end of the song - we notice it all the more.

MusicWeb International

Album info

Release date: April 9, 2021
Number of Discs: 1
Format: CD, mp3
Label: Warner Classics