Schumann Liederkreis, OP. 24; Dichterliebe
It would be difficult to overpraise this issue given its manifold revelations concerning the setting of Heine’s poetry by Schumann. Bostridge makes one think anew about the music in hand, interpreting all these songs as much through the mind of the poet as that of the composer and, being youthful himself, getting inside the head of the vulnerable poet in his many moods; to put it another way, he demands that we hear the songs as though at the moment of creation. That, quite apart from his obvious gifts as a singer and musician, is what raises Bostridge above most of his contemporaries who so often fail to live the words they are singing.
Every one of the magnificent Op. 24 songs has some moment of illumination, whether it’s the terror conveyed so immediately – and immediacy of reaction is of the essence all-round here – in “Schone Wiege”, the breathtaking beauty and sorrow of “Anfang wollt ich” or the breadth and intensity of “Mit Myrten und Rosen”. In this last song you may find the underlining in the final stanza a shade too overt, but then that is the obverse of Bostridge’s acute feeling for the flavour of each word in a song, evident throughout this recital.
In between the two cycles comes a group of the 1840 Leipzig settings that adumbrates every aspect of Bostridge’s – and his equally perceptive partner’s – attributes. The vivid word-painting in Belsatzar brings the Old Testament scene arrestingly before us. The inward fantasy of Abends am Strand is keenly evoked with an appropriately raw touch on the word “Schrein” (“howl”). Then there’s the unexpected heroic touch the tenor brings to Die beiden Grenadiere, where Drake’s imaginative contribution helps to paint the patriotic picture. Perhaps best of all is the unjustly neglected Es leuchtet meine Liebe, a melodrama here perfectly enacted by both performers.
Mein Wagen rollet langsam forms a perfect introduction, in its lyrical freedom, to Dichterliebe, an interpretation to rank with the best available in terms of the sheer beauty of the singing and acute response to its sustained inspiration. Listen to the wonder brought to the discovery of the flowers and angels in “Im Rhein”, the contained anger of “Ich grolle nicht”, the sense of bereavement in “Hor ist das Liedchen”, the numbed thoughts of “Ich hab im Traum geweinet”, and you will judge this is an interpretation of profundity and emotional identification, the whole cycle crowned by the sensitivity of Drake’s playing of the summarizing postlude. Long may this fruitful partnership of minds continue. To complete one’s pleasure EMI have provided an exemplary and forward recording balance. Given the very special calibre of these readings, comparisons for once seem out of place.'