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Florian Boesch sings lieder by Mahler and Schumann

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Mahler • Schumann: Lieder
Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister; Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Linn CKD 511

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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 ‘Waldgespräch’, or the chirrupy birds in Mahler’s ‘Ging heut’ morgen über’s Feld’ – but the tone remains idiomatically intimate, never drifting towards the operatic.

The Schumann’s beauties are many: the floating silkiness of ‘Mondnacht’, the subdued terrors of ‘Zwielicht’. 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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Jessica Duchen