Stephen Eddins

January 2011

British baritone Peter Harvey is primarily a specialist in music of the Baroque, so it's no surprise that he brings the eye and ear of a musician concerned with period performance practice to Winterreise. His approach results in the use of a fortepiano instead of a modern instrument and the restoration of the composer's original key relationships, which are usually altered when the cycle is sung by a baritone rather than a tenor, for which it was written. What makes Harvey's version so outstanding, though, are the quality of his voice and the sensitivity of his interpretations. His technique is utterly secure and his velvety tone is regal and clarion, even, natural, and unmannered across his range. Especially impressive is his utterly velvety legato and the exceptional fluidity and suppleness of his phrasing. His expressive compass gives the cycle a searingly poignant emotional arc. The sound of the fortepiano that Gary Cooper uses, which employs a rare non-equal tuning system and has a slightly nasal color, takes a little getting used to, but once the ear is acclimatised this seems like an ideal instrumental for Schubert. It does indeed have a range of dynamics, color, and articulation that fits this repertoire better than a contemporary piano could. The floating accompaniment to "Die Krähe", for instance, has rarely sounded so atmospherically airborne. Cooper brings an intelligence and inventiveness to the piano part that is well matched with Harvey's. For both its vocal and instrumental color and its interpretive sophistication, this is a Winterreise not to be missed. The immaculate sound of Linn's hybrid SACD is remarkably life-like and present.

(original review)