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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Lieder Volume 2
Ian Bostridge (tenor)
Julius Drake (piano)
rec. live, 22 May 2014, Wigmore Hall, London
German texts and English translations included
WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0077 [79:47]

Last year I welcomed warmly a recital of Schubert Lieder by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake (review) and I’m delighted to find a companion release has now been issued. The programme has been discerningly chosen and, essentially, it falls into two substantial groups: there’s a clear gap, with significant applause, after Totengräbers Heimweh.
 
Bostridge opens with a group of five settings of poems by Ernst Konrad Schulze (1789-1817). According to the excellent notes by Richard Stokes, Schulze was the author of some one hundred poems, all inspired by his unrequited love for two sisters. To judge by these examples the poems are, as you might perhaps expect, somewhat overwrought at times. Im Frühling is a charming and easy song on the surface but in the fifth of the six stanzas the poet’s mood becomes more careworn and Bostridge and Drake, sensing that this stanza is the nub of the poem and of the song, bring out the angst. In Über Wildemann the distressed, lovelorn poet is buffeted by stormy weather; this song receives a very intense performance. Tiefes Leid is a setting of a poem that is definitely over the top but Schubert, who so often conjured first rate songs from second rate poetry, transforms Schulze’s words and Bostridge responds with highly expressive singing.
 
Johann Mayrhofer (1787-1836) was a friend of Schubert’s and the composer set many of his poems. Aus Heliopolis I is a fine example. The setting is quite austere and Bostridge sings it marvellously. I love the gentle rapture that he conveys through his tone in the section beginning "Wende, so wie ich, zur Sonne”.

The pianism of Julius Drake is a constant delight throughout this recital and the opening of Abendbilder, with its rippling piano figurations, offers but one choice example of his artistry. In this song Bostridge’s singing is splendidly controlled and he varies the vocal colours most imaginatively so as to bring out all the poetry in Schubert’s music. By contrast he’s searingly intense in his delivery of Totengräbers Heimweh. This poem concerns a gravedigger who longs to lie in one of his own graves. This desire for death is grippingly portrayed by Schubert in a very fine song that Bostridge and Drake perform marvellously.
 
There’s an example of the care with which the programme has been put together in the next two songs. The words of the last line of Auf der Riesenkoppe are “Sei mir gegrüßt”. Not only does this link nicely into the song with the same title but also the tone of Schubert’s music and the words towards the end of Auf der Riesenkoppe seem to lead us almost effortlessly into Sei mir gegrüßt. In this latter song, a Rückert setting, Schubert’s music mostly expresses gentle devotion though there are occasional and brief overt displays of passion. Bostridge’s limpid delivery is ideal.
 
Des Fischers Liebesglück, in which Bostridge and Drake omit some stanzas, is described by Richard Stokes as “an enchanting barcarolle … which transforms the poem into a song of great reverie.” That’s not quite how it comes across in this performance in which Bostridge offers singing that is very intense and focussed. Not that I’m complaining: I found the reading compelling. In complete contrast Fischerweise is a carefree, cheerful song which Bostridge and Drake deliver with great zest.
 
Nachtviolen is another Mayrhofer setting; I relished Bostridge’s immaculately poised performance. The programme closes with Im Walde which Richard Stokes describes as “perhaps the grandest and greatest of Schubert’s nature songs.” The present performance by Bostridge and Drake is gripping and exciting; small wonder that vociferous applause breaks out at the end.
 
This is a compelling recital featuring singing and playing that is full of artistry and insight. I was enthralled by it. It’s a worthy follow-up to the previous disc and I hope there will be more such discs to come from this fine pair of Schubertians.
 
The notes, which are clearly the programme notes for the actual live performance, are excellent and the recorded sound does full justice to the quality of the performances. Schubert aficionados need not hesitate.
 
John Quinn
 
Disk contents

Im Walde (Waldesnacht), D708 [6:38]
Im Frühling, D882 [4:46]
Über Wildemann, D884 [2:13]
Der liebliche Stern, D861 [3:00]
Tiefes Leid (Im Jänner 1817), D876 [3:49]
Auf der Brücke, D853 [3:25]
Aus Heliopolis I, D753 [3:53]
Aus Heliopolis II, D754 [2:18]
Abendbilder, D650 [5:42]
Ins stille Land, D403 [1:15]
Totengräbers Heimweh, D842 [6:43]
Auf der Riesenkoppe, D611 [5:33]
Sei mir gegrüßt, D741 [4:42]
Daß sie hier gewesen, D775 [3:05]
Die Forelle, D550 [2:04]
Des Fischers Liebesglück, D933 [5:49]
Fischerweise, D881 [3:07]
Atys, D585 [4:22]
Nachtviolen, D752 [3:13]
Geheimnis, D491 [2:01]

 



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