I was interested to read the "organ grinding" review. Strange comments, because I found Britten's playing a revelation, in spite of some - to my ears - odd choices of tempo. But there is terrific use of rubato and a rhythmic freedom and attention to detail that is frustratingly absent from so many recordings of this work. I also found that Britten offered insights into certain passages and even whole songs that were wholly new to me.
Not all of this recording convinced me, but I wouldn't expect it to. Fischer-Dieskau observed that even the greatest artists will never get much beyond halfway to the heart of this great work, and that compromises are an inevitability. Pears has his critics, and his voice is not to every taste. But his musicianship and integrity - in the best sense of that difficult word - make this recording refreshing, emotionally charged and intellectually rewarding. Being on very familiar terms with a dozen or so 'rival recordings', from Martti Talvela's to Christoph Pregardien's, there are, for me, moments in the Pears/Britten recording that top them all for musical insight and artistic revelation.
I found Britten's playing inspirational, and Pears' thoughtful and penetrating interpretation of the texts more than compensates for any perceived weaknesses in the voice, English pronunciation notwithstanding. After all, Tebaldi had demonstrably the finer voice than Callas, but as an interpretative artist was not in the same room. Bostridge has a prettier and more recordable voice than Pears, but I doubt he will or could ever approach the level of Pears' artistry in this repertoire. Pears really does deserve more credit than is sometimes his lot.
So this would probably not be the ideal sole recording of Winterreise in a collection; but it deserves to be in the hands (and heads) of anyone with more than a passing interest in the German Lied.