SCHUBERT Complete Lieder, Vol.25 – Bostridge/Johnson
Bostridge and Johnson go to the heart of the matter, the young tenor in his aching tones and naturally affecting interpretation, the pianist in his perceptive, wholly apposite playing – and, of course, in his extensive notes. The sum of their joint efforts is a deeply satisfying experience. Bostridge shares with Partridge the right timbre for the protagonist and a straightforward approach, with Schreier a deeper journey into the meaning of each song, with Pregardien a liquid, refined line, and with all three an instinctive rightness of phrasing.
Bostridge’s peculiarly beseeching voice enshrines the vulnerability, tender feeling and obsessive love of the youthful miller, projecting in turn the young lover’s thwarted passions, self-delusions and, finally, inner tragedy. Nowhere does he stretch beyond the bounds of the possible, as even Schreier just occasionally does, everything expressed in eager then doleful tones. Johnson suggests that “Ungeduld” mustn’t be “masterful and insistent” or the youth would have won the girl, so that even in this superficially buoyant song the sense of a sensitive, sad, introverted youth is maintained. The daydreaming strophic songs have the smiling, innocent, intimate sound that suits them to perfection, the angry ones the touch of stronger metal that Bostridge can now add to his silver, the tragic ones before the neutral “Baches Wiegenlied” an inner intensity that rends the heart as it should. An occasional moment of faulty German accenting matters not at all when the sense of every word is perceived.
As a bonus we have here, as on the Fassbaender recording, a recitation of the Prologue and Epilogue and of the poems Muller poems not set by Schubert: Fischer-Dieskau, who for various reasons set out by Johnson, didn’t, regretfully, have a part in this series as a singer now graces it with his speaking voice. Even with such a distinguished reciter, I prefer to hear the cycle unencumbered by speech and of course that is made possible by the magic of programming.
The ideal Hyperion recording catches everything in very present terms, as it does Johnson’s own adumbration in his playing of what he writes in his notes. In those I would take issue with him only for leaning too heavily on Susan Youens’s surely too modern reading of the work as a twentieth-century psychodrama. As here, Schubert’s interpreters should make us understand the psychology of the work without need for such a gloss. In all musical matters, everything Johnson writes only enhances one’s enjoyment, if that is the right word, of a soul-searching interpretation which now ranks with those tenor versions listed above as a recommendation.'