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Florian Boesch - Schumann & Mahler: Lieder - BBC Music Magazine

01 January 2018
BBC Music Magazine
Jessica Duchen
5 Stars

Performance: 5/5

Recording: 5/5 

From Schumann to Mahler is possibly not as large a step as it may look. The latter's Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) stand in a direct line from Schubert through Schumann and more, with shared themes including journeying, lost love, and the solace —sometimes — of nature. Schumann's Op. 39 Liederkreis traverses a satisfying range of emotion, including tenderness and ecstasy, but not far beneath its surface lurks the loneliness — plus a hint of impending danger — that makes it an excellent companion piece to the Mahler. The Goethe settings from Wilhelm Meister, also dealing with the isolated, death-haunted artist, are also a well-chosen treat. Florian Boesch's flexible and rich-grained baritone blends with the colourful support of Malcolm Martineau at the piano to offer splendidly characterised accounts of the Schumann: the world-weariness of 'In der Fremde' sets the underlying mood for the programme. There are excellent depictions of varied voices — the Lorelei in Waldgesprach', or the chirrupy birds in Mahler's 'Ging heut' morgen iiber's Feld' — but the tone remains idiomatically intimate, never drifting towards the operatic. The Schumann's beauties are many: the floating silkiness of `Mondnachf, the subdued terrors of `Zwielichf. It's in the Mahler, though, that Boesch and Martineau reach new heights: the final song, in which the protagonist's steps progress at funereal pace and the linden tree's blossom falls over him as a shroud, has all the agonising yet semi-sardonic heartbreak of the First Symphony (the material of which it fed), but packed into less than six minutes. The emotional impact is devastating.

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Schumann & Mahler: LiederSchumann & Mahler: Lieder