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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Romantic Poets - Volume 4

1. Amphiaraos, D166 [5:51]
2. Gebet während der Schlacht (Prayer during battle) D171 [3:20]
3. Die Wallfahrt (The Pilgrimage) D778a [1:17]
4. Das Abendrot (The Evening Glow) D627 [4:39]
5. Greisengesang (Song of Old Age) D778 [5:01]
6. Ihr Grab (Her Grave) D736 3:11]
7. Totengräbers Heimweh (Gravedigger’s Longing) D842 [6:13]
8. Im Walde (In the Forest) D708 [6:16]
9. Der Schiffer (The Boatman) D694 [3:26]
10. Fülle der Liebe (Unbounded Love) D854 [5:06]
11. Lebensmelodien (Melodies of Life) D395 [2:54]
12. Das Marienbild (Picture of the Madonna) D623 [3:52]
13. Die drei Sänger (The Three Singers) D329 [5:18]
14. Grablied für die Mutter (A mother’s funeral song) D616 [2:24]
Florian Boesch (baritone); Burkhard Kehring (piano)
rec. Radiostudio Zurich, DRS Zurich, Switzerland, 16-19 November 2006.
Sung texts and English translations can be found at
NAXOS 8.570067 [58:47]
Experience Classicsonline

Every time I listen to a new issue in this Schubert-Lied-Edition it strikes me what a wealth of mainly unsung gems there are hidden in Schubert’s oeuvre. We tend to hear roughly fifty, maybe one hundred, songs relatively frequently performed, live or on records. The rest pop up, if at all, only in complete surveys like the pioneering Hyperion series in the 1990s and the present series, which now seems to be on the final straight. This is volume 27 and it has to be ranked among the most desirable in the series and not only for unearthing several fascinating songs that should by right belong to the established Schubert canon. We also have Naxos to thank for introducing many listeners to a superb new Lieder singer. I had heard him a couple of times in opera recordings with Harnoncourt and reacted very positively then. Here he grabbed me by the throat from the first moment and never let go. His is a rich, darkish baritone, verging on bass-baritone, well equalized throughout his register, powerful and with dramatic potential, flexible and able to express subtle nuances. His diction is excellent. My colleague Evan Dickerson heard him at the Wigmore Hall in March 2007, and he drew a parallel with Hans Hotter "in a few key respects, being manly and solidly founded in the bass-baritone aspect of his voice, but with some elements of tenderness also present." ED in the last resort found that his style may be too grand for Lieder and that his future was in opera. Live performances and studio recordings are not necessarily fully comparable; one misses the visual aspect in a recording. On the other hand the communication with an audience, visually as well as aurally, can sometimes induce unwanted exaggerations whereas the sterile and neutral microphone frees the singer from extra-musical influences and lets the true feelings flow freely.

Be that as it may, I respect ED’s opinions highly. My impression of him is that here is a singer in his early maturity who masters his means of expression to perfection. There was hardly a phrase or inflexion that felt artificial – there is no posturing about his singing. Quite recently I reviewed a 2 CD Schubert set with Ian Bostridge, a singer I greatly admire. There I commented on what I regarded as an unwise decision to include Totengräbers Heimweh in his programme, with its demands on power and darkness. Boesch’s reading of that haunting and gripping song shows what I was missing. Here is the pithy and all-embracing Wotanesque intensity in the opening – Hotter-like, why not? Boesch also brings out the soft and inward privacy later on.

He is an expressive narrator too, a quality that comes to the fore in several of these songs, not least in the two ballad-like compositions that open the disc. Both are the work of a still teenaged composer – he was eighteen at the time. They are remarkable in their dramatic power and free compositional structure with a piano accompaniment that is just as important as the song line. Both are way ahead of their time and should be classified as among the most important compositions of their kind in Schubert’s oeuvre – almost on a par with Erlkönig.

Fülle der Liebe is another song that should be heard more often. Der Schiffer, which was one of the songs he performed at the Wigmore Hall, peaceful and restrained. This is Schubert at his most lyrical. The songs in this programme are generally on the dark side, dealing with war, pilgrimage, evening, old age and death. Thus they are well suited to a bass-baritone. The manuscript of Die drei Sänger is preserved in incomplete form; it breaks off at the end of the last page, as Ulrich Eisenlohr points out in his excellent notes. This has led scholars to assume that Schubert actually finished it but that the end has been lost. To make it something more than a torso Florian Boesch recites the remaining lines of the poem. He does this expressively and with the dark speaking voice one expects from the weight of his singing at the lower end of his register.

At the Wigmore Hall he was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, who is one of the most sought after accompanists worldwide. Burkhard Kehring, with whom Boesch regularly appears shows here, as well as on some other issues in the same series, that he is in the same league. The recording is expertly balanced and contributes further to the value of this issue. It’s a pity the Schubert series is almost finished. Naxos will, I’m sure, find other worthy tasks for Florian Boesch in the near future: a Brahms cycle? Hans Hotter was masterly in Brahms and Vier ernste Gesänge could well be ideal for Boesch.

Göran Forsling


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