Schubert: Winterreise

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Winterreise
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Gerald Finley (baritone); Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 6034

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The rate at which recordings of Schubert’s supreme song-cycle emerge is astounding, and even more striking is how fine many of them are. I’ve had the good fortune to listen to dozens over the years, but I have only heard a tiny handful which are on a level with this one, which I regard as faultless. Perhaps more than any other recording the singer and the pianist are in equilibrium: they must have worked on the recording for ages, but it often sounds as if Julius Drake has just had an idea – and they are all good ones – and Gerald Finley picks up on it; or vice versa. This is creative interpretation, but there is no sense, as there has been with some performances, that Schubert is being impertinently ‘improved’. Finley sings with the utmost naturalness but explores the doomed wanderer’s soul in a way that comes close to being shocking in its painfulness. From about halfway in the cycle, he descends into an acknowledgement of reality which is at the same time a projection of his own torture onto the external world. It’s charted with dreadful power. This, to my mind the greatest of all bleak works of art, here receives its perfect rendering.

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Michael Tanner