This recital has three besetting faults - one, Schreier is too emphatic; two, Richter is too subdued; and three, these factors make a bad combination.
This is not to say that the disc is lacking in fine things, even in things that are outstandingly good. Richter gives an awesome rendering of the piano part in Der Leiermann, probably the best I ever heard. This was a type of playing and a type of expression in which he absolutely excelled - withdrawn, introverted and spellbinding. He starts off in Gute Nacht to absolute perfection as well, with tempo and touch judged superbly. The problems come in between. The sentiment of the poems comprising Winterreise is one of almost unrelieved monotony, but this long song-cycle need not, indeed must not, convey that impression in performance. Where the artists, both individually and in combination, seem to me to have gone wrong here is in an over-anxious pursuit of `expression'. Less would have been more in this case. If ever a composer exuded music and melody from every pore of his body it was Schubert, and his interpreters should trust him. There is any amount of subtle variety and inflexion of tone in the melodies here, and attempts to enhance them can misfire. Schreier's error (as it seems to me) shows up in the very first song, where he raises his voice towards the end in a forceful and emphatic way when he would have been better to use a smooth cantabile. From there to the very end I'm not sure a single song of all 24 escapes this mistreatment. Schreier restrains himself a bit more at the latter end, I will concede. Das Wirtshaus would have been fine from my point of view if it had not come in the context of his previous efforts, and I was starting to hope that in Der Leiermann he might be guiltless altogether, but not quite, not even there. The low point comes with his comic and objectionable tone on the word Kraehe (crow). Honestly, what point did he think he was making?
The general mood has Richter withdrawing into himself in a very familiar fashion. If he had taken this approach in a less wholesale and more discriminating way, it could have been very effective indeed, I suspect, and it is not all entirely unrelieved - Die Post comes as an enormous respite, and with his playing in Fruehlingstraum we get a sudden and (in the context) startling glimpse of the great player we know. On the debit side there is what I find to be an excessive reliance on the damper pedal, a feature of Richter's style generally that I do not take to. The fluttering figuration in Der Lindenbaum would have been much more effective if Richter had let his fingers express it rather than his left foot - I could never forget how Richter handles Debussy's Brouillards, and I found my recollection reverting enviously to it as I listened to this.
To a great extent the solution to any general `problem' there may be in expressing Winterreise is very simple, and it consists simply in keeping it simple and letting it express itself. Whether that would have done the trick completely in this particular case I'm not sure. In the last resort I suspect that these artists are a mismatch. Schreier does not have a particularly `beautiful' voice, but his `mezzo-tenor' timbre suits these dark lyrics better than a lighter and brighter voice would have done. What his voice is not equipped to convey is the trance-like and almost somnambulistic impression that some of Schubert's later works create, the sort of tone heard in the muttering self-repetitions in the first movement of the G major quartet, in the golden stasis of much of the first movement of the quintet or of the B flat sonata, or in the weary trudging measures, so reminiscent of Winterreise itself, of the andantino in the big A major sonata. In these songs different voices can treat the matter in different ways. However forceful emphasis, time after time, is not one of the best ways; and the most inward and self-communing of accompanists is not the right partner.
This has been a bit of a catalogue of complaints, but I don't see a way of avoiding that with any honesty. I have heard many worse accounts of Winterreise than this, usually the result of lack of sympathy and patience with the score and the texts. Sympathy and patience abound in this performance, maybe too much so.