Reviews of Winterreise




Franz SCHUBERT: Winterreise
Peter Harvey - baritone
Gary Cooper - fortepiano




'Disc of the Month'
Classic FM Magazine:

Andrew Mellor
March, 2011

*****
... Harvey uses not just his vocal cords but also his gasping lungs, the tips of his teeth and the surface of his tongue to let us into Schubert's world. You're left with an impression not so much of Harvey's 'voice', but of an imprint of his emotional journey.

... All this makes for something wonderful. I've encountered few performances in which the sound world of voice and piano appear so close. You get far more detail than usual, particularly at low volume. But you also get tremendous mechanical momentum in the faster movements and a chilling, icy brittleness in those songs that teeter on the edge of emotional collapse - much of it coming from Cooper's no-nonsense fingers.

... Living for weeks with snow and ice might disrupt our daily lives, but it can also surprise us with its side-effects: the curious light of a snow-laden evening; the intimate acoustics of a snow-muffled street. You might think it far-fetched to connect those things with the determined beauty of Harvey's voice and the intricate colourings of Cooper's piano. But listen to this Winterreise and I think you'll see where I'm coming from.

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The Observer:
Fiona Maddocks
December 19th 2010
The performance bristles with musical intelligence, historical sensibility and linguistic expertise. Harvey and Gary Cooper, playing a copy of an 1823 Brodmann piano, have gone back to original sources and examined Schubert's many verbal or melodic changes of mind. The keyboard colour, without the usual "equal temperament" tuning, is light-toned and full of rapid contrasts - an ideal match for Harvey's voice.

Linn Records, Gramophone's Label of the Year 2010, produces a sound so lively you think they are performing in your Biedermeier drawing room.

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Gramophone:
John Steane
February 10th, 2011

Highlights from the Joint Review:

... a performance which arouses sympathy from the start and never forfeits that rare and special kind of interest which is brought into play only with a sense of complete and urgent identification between the composition and its performers. Peter Harvey sings with the voice of humanity.

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Rondo Magazin:
Michael Wersin
18 Dezember 2010
(translated from the German)
First you are struck by the sheer beauty of this baritone voice. Then by the virtually perfect diction: Janet Baker was perhaps the last British singer from whose mouth we heard such natural and effortless German. ... without the slightest affectation on the part of the singer: no interpretative finger-pointing effects, rather a nuance of technique, coming entirely from within however, and arising directly from the feelings, which is why it unfolds to such stupendous effect ... utterly convinced by this fabulous new recording of Winterreise.

This is what Peter Harvey makes us feel in his wonderful version of Winterreise, in a way that scarcely any other performer of this cycle has managed to do until now.

Read more... (and see original German text)


Fonoforum:
Christoph Zimmermann
March 2011
(translated from the German)
Particular admiration is therefore reserved for faultless diction in Schubert's Winterreise, here demonstrated by (among other things) consistently clear, but not forced, final consonants (such as the -s, -st, and -ckt in Auf dem Flusse). That the singer not only knows, but also in the deepest way feels, what - and about what - he sings, is revealed by the many agogic placings and dynamic accents, which especially in Wegweiser and Wirtshaus create an amost magical effect, particularly since the voice always maintains a flowing bel canto. The Organ-Grinder, often over-burdened with lamentation, sounds almost like a narrator's epilog in Harvey's version, shot through with pain, yes, but with controlled emotion. The special effect of this finale surely arises only because of its context, for previously the singer and pianist have given completely free rein to climaxes of despair.

Read more... (and see original German text)


International Record Review:
Lucy Beckett
December 1st, 2010
Harvey's intelligent sensitivity to the words of Müller's poems makes this an unusually thoughtful Winterreise ... Accompanying these icy songs, Cooper's fortepiano sounds chillingly bleak...

... Harvey gives beautiful, perceptive performances ... This is an engaging and draining Winterreise, much to be recommended for the quality of Harvey's singing... A very good booklet note by Peter Harvey himself, who has freshly translated Müller's poems into clear, accurate English...

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Independent on Sunday:
Anna Picard
January 9th, 2011
Cooper plays on David Winston's copy of an 1823 Brodmann, with a tone that liquefies or brightens eerily, cimbalom-like in the twisting drone of "Der Leiermann". Harvey's singing is all on the text, biting or stroking the consonants, at times harsh, at times whispering, his high baritone cool and easy.

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AllMusic.com:
Stephen Eddins
January 2011
... 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 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.

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MusicalPointers.com:
Peter Grahame Woolf
December 2010
A Winterreise for the 19th & 21st Centuries!

Backed with thorough musicological exploration into appropriate instruments and transpositions etc, this is an important recording, one to challenge the intensity of many famous Lieder singers who fill the Wigmore Hall several times a year supported by modern Steinway pianos...

It all comes across with a new immediacy, not relying on rhetoric and histrionics and is an essential purchase for unprejudiced collectors to have on the shelf alongside the Fischer-Dieskaus (8 of his !) and a myriad others ... totally engrossing...

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Financial Times:
Andrew Clark
November 26th, 2010
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

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Audio Video Club of Atlanta:
Phil Muse
February 1st, 2011
For this Winter's Journey one obviously needs the right interpreter, and we find him in English baritone Peter Harvey. This singer clearly has not simply learned Winterreise phonetically, but understands the nuances of the German language to an unusual degree, enabling him to place the right emphasis in each line with unerring accuracy and emotional impact.

... Harvey's extreme sensitivity to sound and nuance is paralleled by his recital partner, Gary Cooper. That's as it must be since Winterreise depends as much on the pianist as it does the singer for its successful realization. Playing on a copy of an early 19th century fortepiano enables Cooper to capture Schubert's sound world with the greatest fidelity.

... "Our focus throughout this recording," says Harvey in his program notes, "has been to convey the spirit of a real performance, and to tell the story with honesty and immediacy." In that, they have succeeded admirably.

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North London News:
Barry Forshaw
December 1st, 2010
For many years the various Fischer-Dieskau recordings have been the baritone yardsticks for Schubert's great song cycle; Peter Harvey's sensitively sung, deeply felt performance is a viable modern alternative, with exceptional support from Gary Cooper.


Bay Area Reporter:
Tim Pfaff
1st January, 2011
... Like Padmore and Lewis, they have returned to original sources with the express wish of making music something like Schubert himself would have heard. Besides enlisting a Paul Winston copy of an 1832 Brodmann fortepiano - from the very decade in which Winterreise was composed - they've turned to a more historically sensitive performing style. Harvey, whose own translations of the 24 Wilhelm Mueller poems are used in the booklet, also provides a deeply insightful essay about the work and the pair's artistic intentions in performing it as they do. And to top it all off, Linn, which deservedly just won Gramophone's Label of the Year Award, presents the results in jaw-droppingly good, bell-clear sound.

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Audiophile Audition:
Steven Ritter
January 6th, 2011
It is Harvey's palpable understanding of this most harrowing of cycles that make this release worthwhile ...

... It is beautifully captured by Linn.

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BBC Music Magazine:
Hilary Finch
January 1st, 2011
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.

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News Shopper:
Kevin Bryan
December 2010
... bleakly compelling listening ...

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