Geoffrey Norris
April 2014

The affecting, chilling bleakness of ‘Gute Nacht’ immediately suggests that this is going to be a Winterreise of vision and searching intensity. And so it proves, with the journey described in dark, dramatic terms, which at the same time subtly point up the shifting emotional aspects of the songs. Finley’s rich and beautifully modulated baritone voice is also one that nurtures words and can encapsulate the musical images with which Schubert clothes them, no more so than in the icy despair of 'Gefror’ne Tränen’ (enhanced by Julius Drake’s stark accompaniment) and in his veiled, hushed and then anguished interpretation of 'Auf dem Flusse’, again with Drake establishing an undercurrent of desolation.

Finley can exercise his lyrical powers in such songs as ‘Der Lindenbaum’, ‘Die Krähe’, ‘Letzte Hoffnung’ or ‘Täuschung’ but it is not a lyrical talent alone: more to the point, it is the spectrum of tonal colouring, inflection and instinctive phrasing which lend this performance of Winterreise such an absorbing sense of inner communion with the soul. Nothing is exaggerated; but on an intimate scale Finley and Drake find the nub of the dramatic psychological substance of these songs. As the cycle progresses, the sense of disillusion and aching despondency becomes all the more unsettling, Finley and Drake finding a still hopelessness in ‘Das Wirtshaus’, the traveller ‘weary to the point of collapse’. With each song shrewdly characterised, this is also a Winterreise in which the long-term narrative is eloquently, poignantly sustained.