Above and featred image : Tenor Allan Clayton and pianist Kate Golla present Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ in an exciting new guise, with detail from Fred Williams paintings as gently moving backdrop. Photo Credit: Bradbury Photography.

Heartbreak is hardly monochrome. Grief can be a vivid journey. Disappointment triggering self-analysis need not be shrouded in darkness.

Such an assortment of colour options have been stunningly realised in this recent commission project by Musica Viva. The presentation of Schubert’s song cycle  ‘Winterresie’ with pianist and singer performing in and around a half-prism swathed in projections has travelled the country as something of a revelation. The classic has endured anew in this unprecedented  tasteful and touching transformation.

This event represented a welcome inclusion of vocal music in Musica Viva’s programming of predominantly instrumental chamber music.
As well as this pleasing change, the collaboration with video designer David Bergman, lighting designer Matthew Marshall and
director Lindy Hume AM took the genre of the song cycle as well as Schubert’s motivic, textural and dramatic tour-de-force to an accessible new level.

Starting his expressive journey at a tortured distance and outside the performance prism from the piano, tenor Allan Clayton’s exposition in the opening lied Guten Nacht was focussed, expertly fragile and breathtakingly graded.

This performance standard was unflagging throughout. So too was the gentle momentum, quality approach to articulation, musical trajectory and  mood setting in the piano intros and postludes from Kate Golla.

The extended range of nuance from the well-blended piano and vocal parts made for an exquistely undulating trip around the protaganist’s landscape of unrequited love, loneliness and self-questioning.

Above: This was a performance of great stamina, passion and extremely flexibility vocal skill from tenor Allan Clayton. Photo Credit: Bradbury Photography.

The fine direction from Lindy Hume and dramatic skill of this tenor included expressive, economic movement about the space and loaded gesturing in front of and touching the backdrop screen. This convincingly turned the performance prism into a larger and shifting vista. The song texts and natural or psychological environments were clearly represented.

Schubert’s genius of invention was well-celebrated in the set. The wealth of shape and variety of utterance were in safe hands at all time.  The performers delivered the Romantic sentiments with clarity, consistency of mood during each lied’s building block contributing to the total work.

Conversations were concisely shaped with endearing integrity. They were sculpted using musical resources and experience that ensured  alteration between  boldly hushed moments and peaks to the performance which glowed with the spirit of anguished outcry.

Great finesse and subtelty was also present in the manipulation of detail from the paintings of Fred Williams AM. This antipodean element was an ingenious infusion of colour and textural gauze, which was not the jarring local addition to the German wintery narrative one could have expected.

Close ups of the art served only to enhanced to flux of the character’s multi-layered journeying. Movement of the backgrounds occured at a careful pace, paying homage to the raw ingredients of the paintings and never overwhelming the flow of the song cycle’s concerns.

Allan Clayton appeared at home with working around and against the digital landscape. His trekking aroung the lightbox space, sheltering under the piano and journeying from and to  a dimmer stage left to bookend the twenty four songs  was an emotionally charged route.

Above: Kate Golla offered a compelling accompaniment for Allan Clayton in this Schubertiade for our time, which also celebrated the art of Fred Williams. Photo Credit: Bradbury Photography.

Changes of orientation for the selected art cleverly mirrored the text. The virtuosically designed oscillations turned shapes of nature on their heads to create new natural features like trees, include birds and emit gradations of  line or hue to accurately support contrasts between harsh landscape, climate and the more intimate mileu of village life.

The production values of this performance vehicle did not smother a very capable delivery of the classic Lieder. This event brought innovation in  a music festival or fringe festival-style, granting Winterreise  a thoroughly new non-European lease of life. or

Despite the lack of snow for this something of a one-act opera vibe, the attention to musical and dramatic detail within the cycle and across it as a work still adhered to principals of the song cycle mode of travel.

Above: Tenor Allan Clayton in an intense moment from ‘A Winter’s Journey. Darkness and light was portrayed musically and through imagery in this version of Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’. Photo Credit: Bradbury Photography.

The marriage between Schubert’s music and emotional agony in Wilhelm Müller’s searching text was maintainged in fine Lieder-performance style thanks to the experience of Golla and Clayton. This production’s using of surtitles in sparse precis-style allowed a translation that did not take away form the performance or background imagaery.  It allowed basic understanding for all.

And for all, the concept’s entertainment level was high and inspiringly new. This progressive marketing and re-working of a musical classic must be considered quite a jewel in Musica Viva’s 2022 crown. Or in any crown for any arts organisation anywhere. The fact that it was commissioned for performance live, will tour overseas and is available to view online completes this event’s compelling modern profile.

Exhausting emotional wandering or the format of extended song cycles has never been so easily enjoyable or riveting a ride for the senses. Don’t miss exposure to the strong elements of  ‘A Winter’s Journey’.



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