Florian Boesch Continues the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert Odyssey

 United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Schubert: The Complete Songs II Florian Boesch (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano). Wigmore Hall, 24.9.2015 (CC)

Quell’ innocente figlio, D17/1. Pensa, che questo istanta, D76. Amphiaraos, D166. Gebet, während der Schlacht, D171. Das war ich, D174. Liebeständelei, D206. Die drei Sänger, D329. Lebensmelodien, D395. Das Heimweh, D456. Der Wanderer, D489.


Der Wanderer, D649. Die Vögel, D691. Der Schiffer, D694. Im Walde, D708. Widerspruch, D865. Drei Gesänge, D902. Bei dir allein!, D866/2. Irdisches Glück, D866/4


And so to the second instalment of the Wigmore complete Schubert Lieder series. We heard the same singer as at the first recital, but a different pianist. Malcolm Martineau took over from Graham Johnson, with very happy results. Martineau was fresher, and even more alert than Johnson, while the level of communication between singer and pianist inhabited the same exalted plane.

The recital began with two settings of Metastasio, the first concerning the story of Abraham and Isaac, the second Hercules. Products of Schubert’s studies with Salieri, they are both beautiful and intrinsically operatic. If there seemed to be a bit too much vibrato in Boesch’s singing of Quell’ innocente figlio (c1812), his delivery of Pensa, che questo istante (1813) was beauty of line personified.

It was the ability of Boesch and Martineau to raise the longer ballads to the status of major pieces that really marked this recital. Amphiaraos, D166 (1813, to a text by Theoder Körner), begins with strong recitative-like statements and includes gestures that in lesser hands could emerge as hackneyed (the piano tremolandi around the depiction of the “proud man” son of Apollo). This song also allowed Boesch to reveal how huge his voice really is, as the narrative developed naturally towards its climax; not to mention the hugely low final note, perfectly and roundly delivered. Another Körner setting, Gebet, während der Schlacht (1815) exhibited preternatural concentration from both performers, and a proto-Wagnerian sense of serious intent clothed in dark harmony. It was a good idea, then, to juxtapose it with the pure contrast of a song that sets the same poet: the simple Das war ich of the same year, delivered with a palpable sense of youthful ardour (an impulsive strain similarly ran through Liebeständelei).

The extended Die drei Sänger (1815) to a text by Bobrik, which included a lovely vocal trill, was superbly accompanied by Martineau. This song is unfinished and Boesch read the remainder of the poem beautifully. It was nice to find a dialogue song in the programme, too: Lebensmelodien (1816) finds a swan and an eagle discussing the various merits of their avian lifestyles. The two strains were well delineated by Boesch, who hardened his voice for the eagle’s contributions.

It was a good idea to bookend the interval with two settings of poems entitled Der Wanderer. The first, D489 (1816, setting a poem by Georg Philipp Schmidt von Lübeck) is the most famous, and found Boesch singing with laser focus; both pianist and singer found the highest intensity here, while Boesch’s voice moved from the most tender “Ich wandle still” to the full flight of “Das Land, das meine Sprache spricht”. The D649 setting (1819) sets a poem by Friedrich von Schlegel and is memorable for its fragmentary vocal line. There was no gap between this and Die Vögel (written the very next year), where contrast with the previous song was maximal.

This recital seemed to include songs that sit at the very heart of ideas that run through Schubert’s Lieder: the Romantic, dark forest (Im Walde, 1820) and the tranquillity of moonlight – depicted with beautifully blanched tone by Boesch in the 1820 Schlegel setting, Der Schiffer. Martineau gave a properly orchestral tint to the opening of Widerspruch (?1826), while both musicians shone in the simple and effective first of the three Lieder of D902. The second of these songs, “Il traditor deluso” is pretty much an operatic scena (ending in breathless fashion), before the final “Il modo di prender moglie” – “How to choose a wife” – takes us into the world of comic opera.

The multi-layered Irdisches Glück (D866/4) from the very end of Schubert’s short life is a remarkable song, and was given its full due here. It was a great way to end the published programme. There followed two encores, including the well-known Heidenröslein. The delights of this Schubertreise continue apace.

Colin Clarke

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