One of the most grown-up review sites around

50,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


A most rewarding CD
Renate Eggebrecht violin


Nick Barnard review
Michael Cookson review

Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases

Anderson Choral music

colourful and intriguing

Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble

one of Berlioz greatest works

Rebecca Clarke Frank Bridge
High-octane performances

An attractive Debussy package

immaculate Baiba Skride

eloquent Cello Concerto

tension-filled work

well crafted and intense

another entertaining volume

reeking of cordite

Pappano with a strong cast

imaginatively constructed quartets

the air from another planet

vibrantly sung

NOT a budget performance

very attractive and interesting

finesse and stylistic assurance

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Liederkreis, Op. 39 [23:35]
Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a [7:16]
Gustav MAHLER (1860 – 1911)
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen [16:12]
Florian Boesch (baritone)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. Crear, Kilberry, UK, 2014
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
LINN CKD511 [47:00]

The combination Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau has worked together for quite some time now. In May 2009 I reviewed a Schumann programme with Heine-settings (review), including Liederkreis, Op. 24. It was awarded a RECORDING OF THE MONTH and even though I didn’t write so at the time I hoped that he would tackle the other Liederkreis, Op. 39 with Eichendorff-settings one day. That day has come now, or rather a full three years ago but not released until quite recently. Now in his mid-forties he is a well-established singer of both opera and lieder throughout Europe, collaborating with the most prominent conductors. The rapport between him and the ever flexible Malcolm Martineau was apparent also ten years ago and it has, if anything, deepened further.

Somewhat surprisingly he is designated as bass-baritone on Wikipedia, and looking back on my previous reviews I find that I was deeply impressed by his strong lower register. He employs it discriminatingly and with excellent effect also here, but what strikes me most is his rather restrained approach most of the time. These are first and foremost lyrical readings – sensitive and beautiful with delicate nuances and expressive colouring of the texts. In the opening In der Fremde in Liederkreis he also sports an elegant trill. Intermezzo has seldom been so lovely sung, and I have a feeling that Boesch feels this song – and indeed the whole cycle – from within. There is something about his timbre that tells me that it is music and texts that touches him very much. In a live recital he would probably have sung much of this with closed eyes. Waldesgespräch is vividly but inwardly characterized, and here he gathers strength for the last two lines, where he so tellingly exclaims: “Es ist schon spät, es ist schon kalt / Kommst nimmermehr aus diesem Wald!” (It is already late, already cold / you shall never leave this forest again!) in a dramatic outburst. I admire this economy with the means. Intensity is not just a question of volume. His declamation, also at pianissimo, conveys so much feeling. And it happens again and again: Die Stille – light and airy; Mondnacht – inward and beautiful; Auf einer Burg – so sad and melancholy, but so beautiful. In the second In der Fremde the poet is alone but he hears the nervous murmuring of the brooklet. The accompaniment guides the listener, suggests the presence of a nightingale, shows us the flicker of the moonlight and reminds the poet that in the castle garden in the valley, far away, his love is waiting for him – but no, she died so long ago. All those shifting impressions are graphically described through the sensitive word-painting. This is lieder singing in the highest division! And so it continues throughout the cycle with a jubilant Frühlingsnacht as the crowning glory. Words and music are welded together as an entity, tastefully presented in a beautiful packaging that in no way conceals the contents. The twelve songs that constitute this cycle are among the most beautiful that Schumann ever wrote. They may not have been more beautifully sung in recent times.

1849 was the centenary of Goethe’s birth and Robert Schumann, who had only set a few of his poems before that, attended a series of conferences about the cultural icon in Dresden. Inspired by what he heard and read, he composed the Mignon, Harper and Philine songs to poems from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre¸a work where the flow of the prose is interrupted by songs that the characters sing. These poems are structurally quite irregular, and Schumann accordingly created musically irregular phrases and set them in a chromatic tonal language, far removed from the songs he wrote in 1840, the great lied year when his song cycles and other unforgettable songs poured from his pen in a steady stream of constant inspiration. Whether his mental health also affected his way of thinking in musical terms is hard to know, but he had since 1844 been engaged in setting Goethe’s Faust to music and suffered from nervous prostration in connection with that work. Some of the Faust music he had already finished was first performed in 1849. The melodic richness of Schumann’s earlier vocal music is sparser in these songs, but Florian Boesch is a splendid advocate for them with his expressive phrasing and sensitive nuancing. They may never be as popular as Liederkreis or Dichterliebe, but they are far from negligible.

The coupling of Mahler’s first song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, with Schumann may seem illogical, but any reading of these songs is welcome in whatever coupling when it is as good as this one. The characteristics of his Schumann singing are just as evident here: beauty of tone, intelligent and musical phrasing and intimate atmosphere. With piano accompaniment instead of orchestra the singer can scale down the nuances even further. I note the strongly accentuated accompaniment in the first song, probably depicting the joy of his beloved’s wedding day – the problem is of course that she is getting married to another. The sorrow he feels is very tangible in the rest of the song, though he tries to see the positive things in the nature around him. Ging heut’ Morgen über’s Feld is the happiest of the four songs, again he enjoys the beauty of nature and the refrain is: ”Isn’t it a lovely world?” But in the third he has a gleaming knife in his breast. “Despair” is the keyword and the intensity grows up to the final lines: “Alas! Alas! / I wish I were lying on the black bier / and might never open my eyes again!”, where all the pain is shouted out. This is the climax in the cycle, even in the whole recital, but even though his heart almost bursts he never goes over the top. The pain is strong but controlled. There are no histrionics. And then in the fourth song the pain is gone, he has reconciled with his fate but can no longer remained here. But, lying down under a tree he finds peace and everything is OK: “love and grief, and world, and dream!” The whole song and in particular the last lines are sung with such intimacy, like an inner monologue, so soft, like a whisper! An extraordinary reading.

A self-recommending issue, in other words? No, not quite, I’m afraid. There are two things that jar. The recorded sound is a disappointment. Whether it is the venue in itself or the placing of the microphones I can’t say but there is reverberation that affects the piano sound and the voice is strangely diffuse. I listened through headphones so the defect – if that is what it is – must be inherent in the recording. I also think that 47 minutes total running time is parsimonious. So much else is so good: the singing, the playing, the music and – not to underestimate the importance of – the liner notes are informative and helpful. Others may react differently concerning the sound, but prospective buyers should sample before placing their orders.

Göran Forsling



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger