Schubert: Winterreise

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Linn
WORKS: Winterreise
PERFORMER: Peter Harvey (baritone), Gary Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Linn CKD 371

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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.

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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