SCHUBERT: Winterreise – Gerald Finley, bar./ Julius Drake, p. – Hyperion CDA68034, 74:37 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
We must be living in a Winterreise golden age; it seems like I have reviewed a boatload of them. Actually, since 2009 I have heard four which I gave five stars to, that being the case here.
Now, unbelievably enough, this new Hyperion with Finley and Drake joins their ranks. Finley always makes me nervous; one of the most talented baritones in the world, I have not found his voice always ideally suited to everything he chooses to record. Schubert was a mystery—I felt like it would be hit or miss. But I never expected to hear such a devastatingly bleak and moving account as what he gives here. I have not known him to be a man who probes the depth of emotion in anything he sings; like Kathleen Battle, his glory is in the beauty of his voice and the rather detached emotional involvement in much of his work, not as a something he is incapable of, but what I have always thought a very intentional interpretative choice. Not here—this thing is as austere and snowy and desperate and pathos-laden as any recording on the market, and one feels the end-game anxiety that haunts the protagonist. Finley is a marvel here, none of his beauty missing, but allowing us to hear the beauty disintegrate into the dark mists of Schubert’s most miraculous conception. Julius Drake is responsible for much of this with pianism that is subtle and perfectly matched to Finley’s conception, and the sound is warm and as dark as the music.