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Canadian baritone Gerald Finley teams up with one of today’s finest accompanists, Julius Drake, to tackle what many deem the greatest song cycle ever written, Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter Journey). Winterreise, completed in 1827, can be seen as a sequel of sorts to his 1823 setting of Wilhelm Müller’s Die Schöne Müllerin. Here, the lovelorn miller who drowns himself in a brook becomes the lovelorn poet who drowns himself in his own tears as his icy journey exacerbates rather than assuages the desolation in his heart.
As the cycle plunges deeper into the dark recesses of that heart, it becomes apparent that Finley’s limber baritone and Drake’s seemingly orchestral palette not only admit of an infinite number of colours and shadings; in songs such as Auf dem Flusse, Der Greise Kopf and Der Leiermann they reveal an acute psychological understanding of how Schubert’s delicate art finds fertile soil in the penumbral regions where reality and dream become one.
Schubert’s cycle was originally conceived for tenor (and tenor du jour Jonas Kaufmann has recently recorded Winterreise), but there is something in Finley and Drake’s febrile introspection and collective musical and poetic intelligence that recall Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten’s classic 1963 recording, as well as Fischer-Dieskau and Jörg Demus’ remarkable 1966 account. A superb release, which together with their Gramophone Award-winning Dichterliebe demands to be heard.