Schubert: Winterreise

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Peter Harvey (baritone), Gary Cooper (piano)


Renowned for his work with ensembles such as the Monteverdi Choir, the Gabrieli Consort and The Sixteen, baritone Peter Harvey is now wishing to spend more time with Lieder – and this recording is testimony to that fact. It is a sober, intelligently thought through, and beautifully sung Winterreise – with Harvey’s baritone in its well-groomed prime, and with fortepiano accompaniment too.

Indeed, Gary Cooper’s keyboard is a prominent voice, close-recorded, and conjuring compellingly so many details of sound and movement: the swinging of the weathervane, the clatter of stumbling feet in ‘Rückblick’, and the wingbeat of the crow. Tint, touch and dampening effects vividly stage-manage a vocal performance which is generally not so strenuously colourful. At times, Harvey is almost too gentlemanly, too over-relaxed.

There’s little sense of palpable pain or yearning where Schubert instinctively places a syllable high in the voice. And one never really experiences a sense of heartache and existential suffering equal to that of Schubert’s response to Wilhelm Müller’s words. Strangely for a linguist, Harvey’s German vowels – particularly the ‘i’ in words like ‘wind’ or ‘stille’ sound a little English – and in ‘Wasserflut’ there’s a similar slackness with regard to pulse and note values.


Baritones such as Matthias Goerne, Christian Gerhaher – and, of course, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – all offer more intense and intensive readings; though for a benchmark performance with fortepiano, I’d have no hesitation in recommending immediately Werner Güra’s recording from last spring with Christoph Berner. Hilary Finch