David Webb's 'Winter Journey', Wigmore Hall Online Review - An Epic Shared |  Reviews, news & interviews

The bleak isolation and lonely fear in Schubert’s winter trip is only too appropriate for a lockdown in January. A positive result of this darkness, however, is tenor David Webb’s “Winter Journey”. Webb has ridden his bike around his London home every day since ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most depressing day of the year. He has covered 500 miles and is raising money for MINDS and Music Minds Matters to cover at least two people for a year of counseling and therapy. This concert, broadcast live from Wigmore Hall on Friday, celebrates the culmination of Webb’s journey. There were performances not only by Webb himself, but also by two other tenors, Alessandro Fisher and Rupert Charlesworth, the baritone Benedict Nelson and the pianist Iain Burnside.

I can’t be the only one who would have welcomed a few female voices in the mix as well. Both men and women sang the work during Schubert’s lifetime, and as baritone Roderick Williams explained on a previous Wigmore livestream, the “genderization” of art songs is a relatively new phenomenon. Anyway, enough. The gentlemen who sang yesterday did a wonderful job and it was a pleasure to listen to them. Each singer took a verse from the first song “Gute Nacht” and displayed his own vocal personality.

Rupert Charlesworth delivered a passionate rendition of “Ernstarrung” and gave “The Stormy Morning” a fiery sense of anger. Webb’s rich, shiny voice matched the silence of “The Linden Tree” beautifully and he left “The Crow” a cool darkness behind. His performance of “Der Wegweiser”, which perfectly portrayed the wanderer’s forlornness, was particularly moving. The darker timbre of Benedict Nelson’s baritone brought “Wasserflut” special depth and he skillfully displayed the wounded anger of “Auf dem Flusse” (“On the River”). Alessandro Fischer’s gentle tenor brought a feeling of rebirth and renewal to the “Spring Dream”, but he made it clear that any hope had been dashed with his angry, tortured rendition of “Loneliness”. Each singer who ended at the beginning took a verse from “Der Leierman” and brought the cycle to a poignant end.

Burnside’s play was consistently exquisite and wonderfully illuminated the details of Wilhelm Müller’s poems, from the sluggish snowmelt drops in “Wasserflut” to the gentle peal in “Irrlicht” and the driven gallop of the horses in “Die Post”.

The performance began with an open and frank discussion of mental health with touchingly honest statements from the singers. Hearing a number of singers sing this cycle perfectly shows how these emotions and experiences are not limited to one person. Maybe we all have a bit of a wanderer in us. However, as Webb reminded us at the beginning, you don’t have to be alone when your sanity suffers unlike Winter Travel’s haunted protagonist.