Only last month, Swedish baritone Peter Mattei wowed the critics at the Metropolitan Opera with a searing portrayal of the hapless title character in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. “His slightly stooped, thoughtful, yet ever so lost soldier commands our sympathy while eliciting our horror in the harrowing domestic encounters. His plaintive cry of ‘Ach, Marie,’ is heart-wrenching,” I wrote at the time. Perhaps that performance was still resonating in my memory, but it was hard not to equate Mattei’s haunted traveller in Schubert’s bleakest of song cycles with Büchner’s tragic soldier. The bitter invective; the suppressed rage; the hollow-eyed despair. If Wilhelm Müller had hinted that this lovelorn wanderer was also a fugitive who had murdered the girl who “spoke of love” I would not have been surprised.

Peter Mattei and Lars David Nilsson. All photos © 2020 Steve J. Sherman/Carnegie Hall

It was equally fascinating to compare Mattei and his pianist, fellow Swede Lars David Nilsson, with last month’s traversal of the same song cycle by mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato with Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the piano. DiDonato made the original choice to sing...

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