An Intimate Cleveland Setting for Keenlyside’s Winterreise


United StatesUnited States Schubert: Sir Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Natalia Katyukova (piano), Reinberger Chamber Hall, Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio. 19.5.2019. (MSJ)

Sir Simon Keenlyside © Uwe Arens

Sir Simon Keenlyside © Uwe Arens

SchubertDie Winterreise

The Cleveland Orchestra is fortunate to have a fine and beautiful facility in Severance Hall. If there is one part of the building that is underutilized, it is the exquisite gem in the basement, Reinberger Chamber Hall. Used mostly for pre-concert lectures, the room lives up to its big brother upstairs in terms of sound both clear and lovely. Sunday provided a rare and wonderful concert in the room, with Simon Keenlyside presenting Schubert’s Die Winterreise in advance of his performances of Sibelius songs with the orchestra the following weekend.

Die Winterreise is a dark and disturbing song cycle that traces the course of a man’s dissolution in the wake of a failed relationship. But other works in this manner, including Schubert’s own Die Schöne Müllerin, cannot compare to Die Winterreise for sheer level of devastation. The poetry by Wilhelm Müller is direct and stark, and it provoked Schubert to pen some of the most haunting music ever written.

Keenlyside didn’t just sing or perform, he lived the score. In a remarkably shrewd presentation, it came across as completely guileless, though it must have been carefully prepared. The singer paced the stage, yet never resorted to a fake acting-out of the text. There was no scenery representing the sights he sang about, yet one felt that Keenlyside was really seeing those things. He charted a course just shy of wildness.

The baritone was by no means alone in his venture. Natalia Katyukova was a poised tiger at the piano, responding to the singer’s nuances with her own powerful inflections. One was never aware of two artists at work, because their shaping was unified in a single vision. One couldn’t tell which artist originated some of the inflections nor which one was cuing the beginning of many of the songs

Keenlyside was in excellent voice, running the range from coldly quiet to loudly storming. He pushed his voice hard enough to portray the narrator’s anguish, yet never quite past control. It was moving, though, because it always seemed like he risked being out of control—and that he had to. When Keenlyside reached ‘Das Wirtshaus’ (‘The Tavern’), the devastation was so complete, the listener could feel without question that the song about the traveler continued on, but the narrator had clearly entered a state of mind from which he would never return — devastatingly prophetic for both Wilhelm Müller and Franz Schubert, both of whom died young. The final ‘Der Leiermann’ (‘The Hurdy-Gurdy Man’) rightly teetered on the brink, leaving a frightening silence at the end.

One can only hope that the Cleveland Orchestra will offer more events like this, extras featuring incoming performers (or, for that matter, orchestra musicians) in the wonderfully intimate setting of Reinberger Chamber Hall.

Mark Sebastian Jordan



  1. Jason Fuh says:

    Mr. Keenlyside is one of my idols in opera and concerts, but I was disappointed with his performance of ‘Winterreise’ last Sunday. Believe or not, it hurt me so much to witness when he didn’t live up to his standard. But, I still love him…

    Sorry to say that I don’t agreed with most of your points of view in the review. I am glad that you saw the beauty of the his performance.

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month