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SCHUBERT: Der Wanderer – Florian Boesch, bar./ Roger Vignoles, piano – Hyperion

SCHUBERT: Der Wanderer – Florian Boesch, baritone/ Roger Vignoles, piano – Hyperion CDA68010, 64:45 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

Though I liked Boesch’s Die Schöne Müllerin a great deal when we reviewed it here, I did feel that perhaps the artist was more concerned with technical accomplishment than emotional presentation, and very conscious of the quality—a very fine quality—of his voice, it is still an album that moved me a lot. Hearing this new offering from Hyperion, where he is zeroing in on 19 selections by the greatest lieder composer in history, concentrating on the Wanderer, or a person living on the margins of society, misunderstood, lonely, searching, or just plain caught in the web of his own misguided romantic illusions—was anyone happy back then?—I think that the baritone has finally found a definitive voice for himself.

This isn’t to suggest that his previous efforts are lacking, only that here, with an opportunity to make some kind of distinctive variance in a subject matter and tone of mood that is all-too-common in this literature, he is finally able to show us just what his real emotive predilections are. And in these same-toned pieces he displays with a sectarian adherence to radical subtleties an ability to differentiate among gradations of melancholy, despair, despondency, and resignation in a way that is rarely heard on record.

I read with some amusement other reviews of this disc which complain “The slow-and-soft approach is laudable in theory for mining these often modest creations for hidden depths of expressivity, though there is a point at which their musical examination brings songs to a near standstill” (Gramophone), or “In these mighty songs, Boesch misses some opportunity for drama and thrill.” (The Buffalo News). I don’t know that I could call any of these pieces “mighty”, but I do know that Boesch milks them for all they are worth, and that in some of these songs the very point of them is to bring things to a standstill. Sometimes you have to consider what is going on in the texts aside from the musical setting, which in many instances is woven into the fabric of the poetry to create opposite effects in order to illumine and not just support—this is at the heart of the revolution Schubert brought to the entire art of lieder creation.

Sound is great, captured at All Saint’s Church in London, and one cannot underestimate the contributions of that Schubert master, Roger Vignoles, maybe the best accompanist in the world today. This is an outstanding album of extreme difficulties in interpretation which are bought off to perfection by both artists, and is heartily recommended.

Tracklist:

(Der) Wanderer
(Der) Wanderer
(Der) Wanderer an den Mond
Aus ‘Heliopolis’ I
Aus ‘Heliopolis’ II
Auf der Donau
Auf der Bruck
(Der) Schiffer
(Das) Heimweh
(Der) Kreuzzug
Abschied, ‘Farewell’
Wandrers Nachtlied I
Wandrers Nachtlied II
Herbst
Meeres Stille (second version)
(Der) Pilgrim
(Die) Götter Griechenlands
Im Walde, ‘Waldesnacht’
(Die) Mutter Erde

—Steven Ritter

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