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Schubert: Schwanengesang; Einsamkeit (Bostridge/Vogt)

Ian Bostridge (tenor), Lars Vogt (piano) (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Schubert
Schwanengesang; Einsamkeit
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Lars Vogt (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 786   69:26 mins

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Schwanengesang, astutely collected, titled and marketed not by Schubert, but by his publisher, continues to attract ‘complete’ – and intriguingly fresh – recordings. ‘Liebesbotschaft’ sets the scene with Lars Vogt’s delicious, bubbling chords and rustic bass. ‘Frühlingssehnsucht’ is taken at a cracking but never unrelenting pace. Even the old chestnut ‘Ständchen’ feels rejuvenated, if somewhat choppy, despite the explanation given in the liner notes. The swiftness of ‘Aufenthalt’ is balanced by the gravitas of ‘In der Ferne’. ‘Abschied’ closes the first set with great charm.

The six Heine settings present huge technical and interpretative challenges. ‘Der Atlas’ has a raw violence, and Ian Bostridge rises bravely to its vocal demands. Vogt’s obsessive, rippling arpeggios of ‘Die Stadt’ are spine-chillingly sinister. Overall, though, this set is less persuasive, needing more depth, force and range of sound; the hanger-on song ‘Die Taubenpost’ is also oddly unsettled in tempo.

Einsamkeit, a true cycle, is more formally and harmonically awkward, but works brilliantly here. The musicians are matched in both power and frailty, navigating the cycle’s erratic mood swings with assurance; only the closing celebration of solitude in old age sounded unconvinced of its own message. This musical partnership is companionable, even exciting, because Vogt does not ‘accompany’ slavishly, but retains his own character, spreading, anticipating or delaying harmonies to tell an independently compelling tale. His playing has dazzling textural richness. With only the occasional Anglicism and vocal uncertainty, Bostridge brings characteristic emotional immersion, crafting persuasively vulnerable protagonists.

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Natasha Loges