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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Heinrich Heine Lieder
1–9 Liederkreis, Op. 24 [21:03]
10–12 Der arme Peter, Op. 53 No. 3 [5:13]
13 Die beiden Grenadiere, Op. 49 No. 1 [3:43]
14 Abends am Strand, Op. 45 No. 3 [3:14]
15 Die feindlichen Brüder, Op. 49 No. 2 [2:22]
Myrten, Op. 25
16 No. 24 Du bist wie eine Blume [1:50]
17 No. 21 Was will die einsame Träne? [2:03]
18 No. 7 Die Lotusblume [1:40]
20–21 Tragödie, Op. 64 No. 3 [4:32]
22 Es leuchtet meine Liebe, Op. 127 No. 3 [2:01]
23 Lehn deine Wamg’, Op. 142 No. 2 [0:49]
24 Dein Angesicht, Op. 127 No. 2 [2:14]
25 Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142 No. 4 [3:49]
Florian Boesch (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. CREAR Studios, Argyll, Scotland, 13-17 June 2007
Sung texts and English translations enclosed.
ONYX 4041 [59:58]

Experience Classicsonline

A little over half a year ago, in September 2008, I reviewed a disc in the Naxos ‘Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition’ with Florian Boesch (see review). I gave it a hearty welcome and designating it Bargain of the Month. That disc was recorded in November 2006 while the present one was made half a year later. In the meantime Boesch had visited Wigmore Hall for a recital with Malcolm Martineau. My colleague Evan Dickerson found a kinship with Hans Hotter ‘being manly and solidly founded in the bass-baritone aspect of his voice, but with some elements of tenderness also present’. In this Schumann recital the elements of tenderness are very much to the fore. Many Lieder singers are fully satisfied with the tender part of the voice and some of them can achieve excellent results, provided they also have a good way with the text and can communicate it vividly. But to take a step further - to become an outstanding interpreter - the singer also needs to be able to draw down a more robust part of the voice. The really great ones - Schlusnus, Hüsch, Hotter, Souzay, Fischer-Dieskau and Prey to mention some names from the past - all possessed a marrowy deeper aspect to the voice. Florian Boesch is well equipped in these respects and has a wide range of dynamic and vocal colour, from the velvety piano and pianissimo to the bass-baritone’s dark-tinted full voice which at will can take on a rasping demonic character. Like Fischer-Dieskau he can shift gear with quicksilver speed from soft to brutal and when it suits the dramatic situation he is willing to sacrifice the well-modulated tone for something rawer, more primitive. Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann, number 6 of Liederkreis illustrates this clearly. The danger with a too well behaved approach is that a performance can be bland, even monotonous, however beautiful the singing is per se. None of the singers mentioned above ever fell into that trap and neither does Boesch – at least judging by what I have heard so far.

Lieder singing is not just a question of singing, it also needs good piano playing. Being a good accompanist requires great flexibility and an ability to adjust to different approaches. Ideally the singer and the pianist should have a relation on equal terms. Am I too loud? was the title of legendary accompanist Gerald Moore’s memoirs but an equally relevant question should be ‘Am I too recessed?’ I have heard Malcolm Martineau on numerous occasions and he always seem to find the right balance. In the recording studio the producer and the balance engineer are also central components for the end result and in this case everything seems ideal. When one as listener doesn’t reflect on balance, perspective and acoustics then all involved have done a good job.

Liederkreis Op. 24 seems to be less often performed, on disc as well as on the concert platform, than the other Liederkreis, Op. 39, but every time I return to Op. 24 I feel that in many ways this is the essence of the Heine-Schumann combination. The last time I had a new recording of it by a baritone it was Roman Trekel, also on an all-Schumann disc (see review) but not with an identical programme. The greatest difference was that he also included Dichterliebe. That is a very good record too. Trekel’s is a different voice-type, lighter, brighter, closer to the tenor but he is also able to invest the more dramatic songs with the required power. Comparing the two singers directly Boesch has a certain advantage through his darker and more full-throated low register, which pays dividends in Es treibt mich hin, es treibt mich her, Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden and Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann. Overall his dynamic scope is wider and his softer singing even more beautiful and heartrending.

Among the other songs the three-part Der arme Peter is a rarity but it has a lot to offer. Die beiden Grenadiere is on the other hand among the best known and requires a dramatic story-teller. Gérard Souzay and Heinz Rehfuss (accompanied by Frank Martin) were my first recordings. Boesch and Trekel are both more restrained, though there is no lack of intensity – it’s just that it is under the surface. Boesch is impressive indeed when the Marseillaise melody flows out in the last stanza of the song. Its companion piece Die feindlichen Brüder with its stormy accompaniment is also superbly sung. The ballad Belsazar, Schumann’s first setting of Heine, is narrated with insight.

The three Heine songs from Myrten are among Schumann’s finest songs and the reason for the success is the simplicity of the settings. They are so telling with small means and Florian Boesch sings them also with the utmost simplicity. That also goes for the two-part Tragödie which is affectingly done without over-interpretation.

The last four songs were, despite the high opus numbers, originally meant for Dichterliebe but were discarded and published much later. Dein Angesicht is the one that most readily fits the mood of the cycle. Mein Wagen rollet langsam is interesting with the staccato passages in the accompaniment and an uncommonly long postlude.

I still regard the Trekel disc very highly but Florian Boesch’s interpretations are even more three-dimensional and since the programmes only partly overlap even Lieder lovers on a shoestring budget should save up for this latest addition to the Lieder Record Helicon. A superb disc in every respect.

Göran Forsling


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