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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Der Wanderer
Track listing below review
Florian Boesch (baritone); Roger Vignoles (piano)
rec. 11-13 November 2012, All Saint’s Church, Finchley, London. DDD
German texts and English translations included
HYPERION CDA68010 [64:45]

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.
 
John Quinn

Track listing
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]