Universally recognized as the greatest song cycle ever composed, Schubert’s “Winterreise” (“Winter Jouney”) is a journey of the heart of one jilted by a beloved during the depths of winter, with the barren and cold season being used as a parallel physical universe to reflect the existential wasteland of the would-be lover’s angst. This is the male voice song cycle that separates the men from the boys, a considerable irony given that baritone Matthias Goerne actually committed “Winterreise” to memory as a boy and sang it as a teenager and young singer. All reports of his most recent performances of the celebrated cycle with Christoph Eschenbach as pianist go on and on about not just the vocal quality of the performances and infinite shadings and moods reflected, but the fact that at mid-career, Goerne is at last able to fully plummet the depths—in this work, considerable, since nature itself appears to cry out to the jilted lover to end his grief through suicide—of meaning, both explicit and implicit. But of course, the quality of a “Winterreise” is not just a question of what the singer does, however profound, as the piano is an equal protagonist at every point of the proceedings, and there is no greater Schubert interpretor out there than Eschenbach, and the Eschenbach-Goerne partenership is much more than the sum of its parts, but takes both artists to entirely new levels. (Dennis Polkow)
July 29, Ravinia’s Martin Theatre, Lake-Cook & Green Bay Roads, Highland Park, (847)266-5000, $10-$40. 8pm.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: email@example.com