This is the fourth Schubert recital album by Florian Boesch that I have enjoyed. The others are his already celebrated accounts of “Winterreise” and “Die Schöne Müllerin” on Onyx. There’s also a collection for Naxos called “Romantic Poets, Vol. 4”. I have by now the same high expectation for any new recital from him as I do for Jonas Kaufmann’s work and this Hyperion anthology conforms to that prospect, being excellent in every way.
Using Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “The Wanderer Above the Sea of Mist” (1818) is now almost a cover cliché. It has graced so many recordings of Romantic music, so much so that Jonas Kaufmann is pictured in a costumed, Photoshopped pastiche of the same pose on one of his recital albums for Decca. It is entirely appropriate here, in this carefully assembled collection of Schubert’s Lieder on the theme of the loneliness, isolation and the wandering of the outsider.
This inevitably makes for a rather sombre, melancholy mood throughout this 65 minutes. Not many of these songs will necessarily be familiar to the casual lover of Schubert’s Lieder. Indeed I can imagine some will know only “Der Wanderer an den Mond” here taken at a very subtle and moderate pace rather than the game plod we too often hear, as if the protagonist were dancing through mud. I count myself a moderately enthusiastic student of Schubert’s vocal oeuvre but I have heard or own probably only half of his songs and this disc acquainted me with half a dozen I had not previously encountered. So, for all its beauties, this is no jolly “Best of” collection including “Die Forelle”. Rather it is a serious, scholarly assembly more often black-browed and thought-provoking than charming.
The solemn, even dour, ambience is established immediately with Roger Vignoles using the pedalling to open up the deepest resonances of the piano in “Der Wanderer” D489. We are often in the same territory as “Winterreise” without much light relief - although a yearningly lovely song like “Das Heimweh” does much to redress the balance, as do the two tender and reposeful “Wandrers Nachtlied” songs.
What a beautiful voice this is, entirely even throughout its wide tessitura from an echt bass low D on “Glück” at the end of the first song to the lightest touch at the top of its range. Boesch thus sounds first like a bass then a lyric baritone in the second verse without any sense of an incongruous grafting of one vocal mode onto another. He often sings pianissimo without crooning, such as at the conclusion of “Auf der Bruck”. His diction is invariably pellucid without mannerisms. Vignoles matches his singer with his elegant touch yet sometimes the contrasting moods between the ending of on song and the start of another can be almost shocking, as in the transition between “Aus ‘Heliopolis’ II” and “Auf der Donau”. Boesch has the ability to vary his tone and dynamics to a remarkably degree. In this and in the intense, personal nature of his communication of the burden of a song he reminds me of the young Bryn Terfel. There is a mesmeric concentration to his delivery of “Meeres Stille”, which ends on a suspended thread of sound, perfectly mirroring the utter stillness of the sea.
Nothing in this partnership is over-stated; pianist and singer move as one, from the haunting chill of “Herbst” - understandably a favourite of Brahms - to the resolute marching chorale of “Der Pilger” to the rising panic which pervades “Im Walde ‘Waldesnacht’”, so reminiscent of “Der Erlkönig”.
A German-English libretto and fine notes by Richard Wigmore are provided in the booklet.
All lovers of the Schubertian Lied will want to own this - yet another indispensable recital from a Lieder singer who is, in my estimation, alongside Kaufmann the finest before the public today.
Previous review: John Quinn
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]