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Beethoven: Songs and Folksongs

Ian Bostridge (tenor), Antonio Pappano (piano), Vilde Frang (violin), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello) (Warner Classics)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Songs and Folksongs
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Antonio Pappano (piano), Vilde Frang (violin), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello)
Warner Classics 9029527643   56.03 mins


Although both are included, Ian Bostridge is keen to remind us that there’s more to Beethoven than the evergreen ‘Adelaide’, or An die ferne Geliebte, the first great song cycle (one that set the bar high for Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin some seven years later). Goethe is a looming presence here, and the inclusion of all four settings of ‘Sehnsucht’ offers some interesting comparisons. Other Goethe Lieder include a ‘Maigesang’ delivered with glowing gemütlichkeit, and ‘The Song of the Flea’ from Faust in which Antonio Pappano invests the fidgety piano part with piquant playfulness whilst allowing Bostridge to flex his comedic muscles to the full.

The young Beethoven’s incarnation of a ‘love-drunk man’ in ‘Adelaide’ suits Bostridge’s Peter Pan-ish tenor ideally. Even An die ferne Geliebte, written when Beethoven was in his mid-40s, sounds like a young man’s cycle. Bostridge’s warm lyricism casts an enveloping spell – though some of his expressive traits can be a touch predictable, their range circumscribed if affecting. Violinist Vilde Frang and cellist Nicolas Altstaedt join for a feast of British folksong arrangements, though Bostridge sometimes overeggs things: in ‘The Pulse of the Irishman’, he skitters bewilderingly between the ‘full Oirish’ and evensong at King’s.


Paul Riley