This album featuring Schubert’s Winterreise, features a special arrangement of the music by Wim ten Have for the Ragazze Quartet string ensemble and baritone Martijn Cornet. You will find that the music on the album delivers warmth, life and depth in the piano part that is emphasized through the string instruments. This performance of Winterreise offers ‘Disarming tenderness’ (5-star Review, De Gelderlander)
The Ragazze Quartet contributes not only the sonority of four string instruments, but also the energy of four musicians who at the same time connect with the music and the singer. The challenge, was to remain faithful to Schubert while exploiting to the full the extra possibilities offered by this instrumentation. The four members of the quartet have immersed themselves in the texts, and, in collaboration with the arranger Wim ten Have, have taken care to create a score perfectly suited to the baritone Martijn Cornet and themselves.
– Hans Eijsackers
[from liner notes]
Martijn Cornet, Baritone
Rosa Arnold – Violin
Jeanita Vriens-van Tongeren – Violin
Annemijn Bergkotte – Viola
Rebecca Wise – Cello
Total time: 01:15:45
Van den Hul
Merging Technologies, Horus
Merging Technologies, Pyramix
Bruel & Kjaer 4006, Schoeps, Sonodore MPM – 91
|Original Recording Format|
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||February 19, 2021|
Schubert’s Winterreise, one of the greatest song cycles written, is most often heard with piano and voice. The Ragazze Quartet treats us to a performance arranged for string quartet—and it works marvelously!
The Ragazze and baritone Martijn Cornet give us a performance filled with nuance, emotional impact, and synergistic musicianship. Jared Sacks has outdone himself in capturing the natural delicacy and ambience of this performance in a beautifully well-balanced recording that is simply exceptional.
Listen for example to the song “Rast,” in which our protagonist is faced with the loneliness and despair of his circumstances. Cornet’s phrasing, his switch in and out of sotto voce, all perfectly evoke his character’s emotional state with apt accompaniment by the Ragazze. And then follow the shift in tone in the next song with the dance of Fruhlingstraum—what a great transition by both singer and quartet. Very good stuff here.
Fleshing out the instrumental accompaniment with the variety of texture provided by four string instruments adds greatly to the emotional telling of this tale. Piano is wonderful, but this arrangement for string quartet (by Wim ten Have) raises the ante considerably. The Ragazze play in great sympathy with their baritone to create a performance of even greater variety and emotional intensity for me than have performances for piano and voice.
As the Ragazze comment: “Where the piano sometimes wins in percussive moments, the string quartet can often add more warmth, life and depth to the sound. Moreover, this ensemble adds more than just the harmonies of four string instruments, you also feel the energy of four musicians who simultaneously connect with the music and the singer.”
Jared Sacks’ recording to DSD 256, with minimal post-processing, captures a level of natural detail that is rare. The immediacy of voice, the delicacy of articulation, the subtle gradations in volume and changes in timbre, are a delight. This recording is a master’s class in how exceptional recordings should be made.
Cornet’s voice is more “in the hall” and is not as closely mic’d. It sounds like a live performance in a natural acoustic environment, not a studio. While this is a matter of personal preferences in sound quality, for me this is a positive attribute that adds greatly to the musical experience. Superb!
At the end of the day, I now place the Ragazze / Cornet recording as my go to performance of this music.
If you’re an audiophile, you owe it to yourself to challenge your system to recreate the naturalness of this recording. If you love classical music and Schubert, this recording needs to be in your collection.
With the outside temperature still below zero, Schubert’s well-known, almost 200 year old song cycle Winterreise is the music to play indoors now. The new version by Wim ten Have for string quartet and baritone also really gets under the skin and gives me chills. Offering pure beauty and intense emotion.
I never thought that exchanging the piano accompaniment for the use of four strings would produce such a result. But yes, the Ragazze Quartet are when they are supported by the directions of the eminent song accompanist Hans Eijsackers. That pianist knows the ins and outs when it comes to conveying and completing the impact of sung lyrics. I even consider him the successor of the legendary Rudolf Jansen from Arnhem.
Obviously, Eijsackers thought it was strange to step into this adventure for strings without playing along as an advisor. But he looks back on it as an enrichment. No wonder. Eijsackers’ sound ideas found a willing ear in Wim ten Have – once first viola player in the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and a member of no less pioneering ensembles than Concentus Musicus Wien, Leonhardt Consort and La Petite Bande.
I never miss Schubert’s piano part, no matter how genius and familiar. Not even a little? No. The illustrative and in-depth accompaniment takes on a completely different but very intense dimension in this arrangement. The adventure of the young man, disillusioned in love, who leaves home and hearth and heads to his unknown future (read: end) with a one-way trip in the cold, is now brought to life in an incredibly realistic way.
The game of the man with the hurdy-gurdy, the dog barking, the nostalgia, the spring dream (very frisky, very overwhelming), the loneliness, the despair, the fatalism: it all comes in new and more penetrating than ever. This hurdy-gurdy really sounds like the medieval instrument here, and not like a vague reflection, like on the piano. Nobody should be surprised about this surprise. The Ragazze Quartet plays at the cutting edge and stimulates the sentences with its effective approach.
Just listen to his impeccable switching to the sotto voce (whispering) head voice in the song Rast. When you think of a tenor you immediately think of a piece of feminine appearance. With this baritone you become a part of a highly personal, vulnerable, and disarming tenderness.
But what is glowing accompaniment without an inspired storyteller? Martijn Cornet emerges as a gifted singer who forces his listeners to listen breathlessly. His diction, intonation and especially experiencing his text leave nothing to be desired. And the use of voice is phenomenal.
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