SCHUBERT Songs Vol 4 (Bostridge)
Six months after I reviewed the third volume of Ian Bostridge’s live Schubert series from the Wigmore Hall (12/17), here’s the next. On this occasion there’s perhaps less of a detectable theme (Richard Stokes’s generous booklet note offers no scene-setting introduction to the programme), but there’s no shortage of great songs for Bostridge and Julius Drake to sink their teeth into.
Only two tracks in, for example, we get on to ‘Der Zwerg’, given in a characteristically lean and mean performance. Bostridge’s tenor is aquiver with suspense, with consonants vivid and vowels wrung out for all their expressive potential, while Drake is implacable and forthright in the accompaniment. Further on, the pair also offer a wonderful account of ‘Erlkönig’: Drake rattles through the opening imposingly and Bostridge relishes the storytelling like few others, offering an especially engaging impersonation of the Erl-King himself, all snarling lip-curl and insidious promise.
It’s a performance that is followed by a well-earned round of applause, one of the few signs of the disc having been recorded in concert; there’s applause also after the lovely, concentrated account of ‘An den Mond’ (D296) that concludes the recital. I feel the polite titter and tentative clapping after a sparkling account of ‘Liebhaber in allen Gestalten’ could have been edited out, though.
As with the previous volume, one notices how Bostridge’s voice and interpretative manner add levels of sophistication that are perhaps not always called for in some of the more straightforward songs – and one notices especially an inability to match the uncomplicated joie de vivre Drake communicates in much of the piano-writing (try not to tap your foot along to his springy way with ‘Der Musensohn’, ‘Willkommen und Abschied’ or the jolly oom-cha-cha of ‘Im Haine’). The tenor’s top can be a bit thin, too, the lower range a bit gravelly. But his performances are always wonderfully engaged and engaging, and few singers convey as much faith in Lieder or willingness to explore their expressive potential. As before, this is a disc well worth exploring.