The first time that I heard Florian Boesch he was singing Schubert
in a recital at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival which I reviewed
for MusicWeb International Seen and Heard. Since then I’ve heard
him in a fine recording of Winterreise (review).
I’ve just reviewed an equally impressive new recording
of Die schöne Müllerin and now, hot on the heels
of that disc, comes this new Schubert recital. As Richard Wigmore
explains in his good notes, the theme of the programme revolves around
the Romantic notion of the Wanderer, the ‘rootless outsider’.
At Boesch’s Cheltenham recital, when he was accompanied, as
he is here, by Roger Vignoles, the main item on the agenda was Schwanengesang.
By a pleasing coincidence, the five songs that came first in that
recital were the first five on this disc, then as now in the same
order. The performers set out their stall impressively at the very
start with Der Wanderer D489, introduced imposingly by Vignoles.
Boesch’s characterful singing is distinguished by excellent
legato and really pleasing, rounded tone.
I’ve noted before that Boesch has a welcome ability to lighten
his tone as and when the music demands it. This facet is on display
in Der Wanderer an den Mond. Richard Wigmore says of this song
that it ‘exudes a weary, trudging stoicism’. I’m
not quite sure I get that in this particular interpretation, which
flows at a nice easy pace. Perhaps the clue to the way Boesch and
Vignoles treat the song is to be found in the last couplet which,
in Wigmore’s translation, is given as ‘O happy he who,
wherever he goes,/still stands on his native soil!’ Just because
Boesch can sing in a light voice doesn’t mean that he can’t
unleash vocal power, however. Aus ‘Heliopolis’ II
offers an early example in this programme of his - and Vignoles’
- ability to offer a much bigger, dramatic performance. A little later,
Auf der Bruck benefits immediately from the propulsive energy
imparted from the keyboard. Boesch responds to this urgency but in
so doing he doesn’t sacrifice quality of tone or line.
Richard Wigmore comments that Das Heimweh is a ‘little-known’
song. I think it deserves to be better known and a finely-weighted,
expressive performance such as this present one can only help its
cause. Boesch and Vignoles also make a very strong case for Der
Kreuzzug, a song that is a contemporary of Winterreise.
As much as anything else it’s the way technical control is deployed
for artistic effect that singles out this recital. The performances
of both settings of Wandrers Nachtlied, especially that of
D768, are cases in point. We find similar technical excellence on
display in Meeres Stille too; here the performers distil a
rapt, hushed atmosphere. Incidentally, this was the second of two
settings of the same text that Schubert made on consecutive days.
Schubert can so often surprise. Take Der Pilgrim, for example.
This seems to be a relatively conventional song, set to the sort of
‘tramping’ rhythm that we encounter quite often in the
composer’s songs. Then in the last stanza Schubert pulls a rabbit
out of his hat, slowing the music down and achieving a mood of great
intensity. Boesch is wonderfully convincing here.
The recital ends with a beautiful, pensive setting that is echt-Schubert.
Lied ‘Die Mutter Erde’ is sung and played with
care, expression and gentle eloquence. Nothing more is needed: this
is the perfect completion.
This is a most distinguished recital that confirms the stature of
Florian Boesch as one of the leading Lieder singers currently
before the public. His partnership with Roger Vignoles is clearly
a fruitful one. Vignoles offers insightful and engaging playing throughout.
With production values - recorded sound and documentation - up to
Hyperion’s usual excellent standards this disc is a must for
all Lieder enthusiasts.
Der Wanderer D489 [5:23]
Der Wanderer D649 [2:24]
Der Wanderer an den Mond D870 [2:51]
Aus ‘Heliopolis’ I D753 [3:09]
Aus ‘Heliopolis’ II D754 [2:14]
Auf der Donau D553 [2:56]
Auf der Bruck D853 [3:32]
Der Schiffer D536 [2:03]
Das Heimweh D456 [2:55]
Der Kreuzzug D932 [2:45]
Abschied D475 [5:07]
Wandrers Nachtlied I D224 [1:43]
Wandrers Nachtlied II D768 [2:02]
Herbst D945 [3:46]
Meeres Stille D216 [2:23]
Der Pilgrim D794 [4:38]
Die Götter Griechenlands D677 [4:24]
Im Walde ‘Waldesnacht’ D708 [6:53]
Lied ‘Die Mutter Erde’ D788 [4:03]