It’s hard to think of a more appropriate work for Toronto this February than A Winter Journey although one could make a good case for A Winter Stay at Home with a Hot Water Bottle and a Bottle of Whisky. Unfortunately Schubert didn’t set the latter so it was Winterreise we got from German baritone and pianist Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber at Koerner Hall last night. It was completely classical. Two men in tails walked out and performed the 24 songs of this most demanding cycle. There were no histrionics. There was no interpretive dance. There were no video projections. Indeed so unhistrionic was it that I don’t believe Herr Gerhaher’s right hand left the piano the entire time.
What there was was a wonderful performance of perhaps the pinnacle of the art song repertory. The drama was all in the music making. Gerhaher can draw on a fabulous range of colours and tones. He can effortlessly float very beautiful high pianissimos or produce a much bigger, darker, more emphatic, sound at will. And this he did with exemplary attention to the text for almost an hour and a half. Huber was no less impressive with a sympathetic and engaging performance of the piano part. I don’t think there is much left to say. It was simply terrific music making. Credit too to the wonderful acoustics of the hall. Perfect for this kind of performance.