I am a huge admirer of Gerald Finley and recognise his versatility in everything from Wagner to the Baroque. The voice is intrinsically beautiful and produced with extraordinary evenness and steadiness, with no grinding gear-changes or over-emphases.
However, it is that very concern for legato and the restraint of his expression which for me constitute an element of blandness in this recording. For some, the more overt and quasi-operatic manner of Kaufmann or Florian Boesch - both of whose recent Winterreise releases I have previously very enthusiastically reviewed - provides more variety and interest than Finley's restrained approach.
Not that his delivery of the text is in any way inexpressive; his German is superb and his nuancing of dynamics often very moving. He is, however, reluctant to provide the listener with anything so vulgar as a full voice, preferring to adopt a smaller-scale interpretative stance. All of this is very much a question of taste; he is ably partnered by an experienced accompanist who is sometimes rather more animated than his singer. Nonetheless, I can well understand how some might prefer Finley and have no quarrel with that, especially given the beauty of his mezza voce, complemented by secure, resonant low notes, a lightly flecked upper range and perfect intonation. Personally, I derive more pleasure from the greater exuberance of baritones such as Boesch, Allen and Hynninen. Admirers of Finley - of which there must and should be legion - will not be disappointed.
Previous reviews: John Quinn (February 2014 Recording of the Month) ~~ Brian Wilson
Masterwork Index: Winterreise