SCHUMANN; MAHLER Lieder (Florian Boesch)
An oddly muted, inconsistent release here. Florian Boesch’s German Lieder recordings have been so strong, one is inclined to snap up anything with his name on it. With two popular cycles dominating the disc – Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op 39, and Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer – why hesitate? Immediately, the Linn sound picture favours room ambience over the kind of warmth and immediacy heard in Bosch’s Onyx recordings. With his perfect diction, meticulous vocalism and discreet shading, Boesch seems to report the music more than he dramatises it. Turning to Henk Neven (Onyx, 7/11), one hears all the youthful ardour missing here, the sense that most of the songs are their own matter of life and death, while Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recording with Christoph Eschenbach (DG, 9/77) is rich in vocal highlights, all captured by eager engineering.
The rest of the disc finds Boesch sounding less studio-bound, first with Schumann’s Wilhelm Meister Songs, Op 98a, but most notably in Songs of a Wayfarer in a performance that momentarily convinces you the piano-accompanied version is preferable to the better-known orchestral version, with much credit going to Malcolm Martineau who generally displays more temperament than the baritone. The suicidal ‘Ich hab’ ein gluhend Messer’ captures more fury than the well-upholstered orchestral version, while Martineau uses the music’s nervous rhythm to underscore the song’s deep psychological agitation. The profound sense of leave-taking in the final Wayfarer song draws some of the most coloristically subtle singing I’ve yet heard from Boesch. But Christian Gerhaher is just as convincing in the piano-accompanied Wayfarer on his disc of Mahler songs (RCA), which has a more enterprising programme including a piano-accompanied ‘Urlicht’ movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony.