(Also reviews a disc of 17thC Italian chamber music - see 'The Queen's Music' on the 'Italian Baroque' recordings page)
The common factor here is Harvey, a British baritone hitherto known as a specialist in early music. At first sight his recording of Schubert's song-cycle might seem a risky move into a different type of repertoire, where competition is especially intense, but his reading is extremely fine, because he bases it on the same principles he has learnt and practised as an exemplar of 'historical performance'.
What Harvey brings is evenness and purity of tone - no quasi-operatic expressionism here - and a precise but natural understanding of Schubert's musical syntax. The youthful freshness of experience described in these songs comes across powerfully, and although Harvey focuses more on the phonetic beauty of the words than their underlying meaning, his German is excellent and his diction crisp.
The other notable feature is the use of an 1823 Brodmann pianoforte, which brings its own special sound qualities while allowing Gary Cooper to create a more pleasing balance with the singer than is often the case with a modern concert grand.
Harvey's few contributions to the BIS disc, a collection of Italian vocal duets and trios from the court of the legendary 17th-century Queen Christina of Sweden, are wonderfully stylish, but the recital is dominated by the sopranos and Lars Ulrik Mortensen's spirited harpsichord playing.
(original review now only available to subscribers to www.ft.com)