Two Young Women ‘Winterreise’ (Report by Fritz Jurmann, Vorarlberger Nachrichten, January 31st 2018)

Isabel Pfefferkorn and Hanna Bachmann are going to perform Schubert’s cycle in Vienna soon.

BREGENZ It caused a sensation in the county’s music scene, when two native artists courageously dared to perform Schubert’s cycle ‘Winterreise’, well-known as one of the most profound works of the romantic art song. The mezzo soprano Isabel Pfefferkorn (26) from Schlins and the pianist from Röthis Hanna Bachmann (24) wowed the full house with their juvenile fresh, unadorned approach.

Both interpreters consequently made their own way also outside the country after their education, in masterclasses and CD debuts, decorated in competitions and with scholarships, amongst others the one by the Richard Wagner Society Vorarlberg. They have been performing as a duo for two years, both are all smiles during the interview with the VN remembering their successful performance in Bregenz. They approached this project seen by them as inviolable after intense preparation, ‘with awe and respect’ but also with enormous motivation. When asked about the necessary experience, Pfefferkorn refers to the fact that Schubert and the poet Wilhelm Müller were only 30 years old at the time of the composition. The ability of perception of feelings does not depend on the age, also she herself had made certain experiences at a young age already.

Message of the Songs

And referring to the male dominance in the statement of this cycle mostly interpreted by baritones: “I do not want to play this work, but ‘live it’ and wish the listener to find the message of the songs and not me as an interpreter. Apart from this, love remains the same – no matter between which genders.” Hanna Bachmann adds: “We do not understand the voice as a concrete person, but rather as a lyrical I that overcomes the gender role. We let the female and male references, thus this classification becomes irrelevant.” For her as a pianist the genius way in which Schubert set the text into music at the piano was a very special experience: “The songs very much affect me emotionally in their sadness, but paradoxically at the same time give me a lot in return.”

Highly gifted

The success of this Winterreise has spread in the music world and now leads to a special invitation to Vienna. On February 6th, they both will perform the song cycle at the commemoration concert of the painter Gustav Mahler’s 100th death anniversary in his historic villa, where they gave a recital last year already. Klimt’s painting ‘Schubert at the Piano II’ is the connection in time. The international sought-after mezzo soprano and singing pedagogue Angelika Kirschlager, a frequent guest at the Schubertiade for many years, gave them a recommendation on their way:
“Isabel Pfefferkorn caught my attention some years ago already as a highly talented Lied singer. In her interpretation she can recall an impressive range of colours, even more when considering her young age. Where did this back then twenty-one-year-old find these sounds of love, pain, death and life? She has continued on her way in the meantime and has found a song accompanist in Hanna Bachmann that knows how to give the necessary big space to a singer like Isabel and to make possible an extraordinary ‘Winterreise’ with her highly sensitive playing. Due to their young age, the interpreters are neither influenced by experience for years (namely thank God neither the less good one) nor are they male – which usually is expected of interpreters of the ‘Winterreise’. Thus, two young women hereby go on a journey and in addition to the necessary technique they have to a great extent what is not always considered naturally in this business: Humbleness for the piece of art, devotion to the music and a grand soul.”

Concert: February 6th, 19.00 Uhr, Klimt-Villa, 1130 Wien, Feldmühlgasse 11 (sold out)