Schumann: Heinrich Heine Lieder

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WORKS: Heinrich Heine Lieder: Liederkreis, Op. 24; Myrten, Op. 25 – excerpts etc
PERFORMER: Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


Here are Schumann’s settings of Heinrich Heine – but without Dichterliebe. There’s almost everything else, including four songs intended for, but eventually excluded from, that cycle. Most important, there’s the still undersung Op. 24 Liederkreis in a performance which, by the end, captures much of the Heine’s own characteristic bitterness but which, as a whole, is underwhelming.

Florian Boesch is the alpha male of new generation Lieder singers, with a wide and secure vocal and expressive range. You hear more of it, and to better effect, though, in live performance. When Boesch is in the studio, he’s just too studied. And, although Malcolm Martineau splendidly does all he can to urge Boesch on, his performance is simply not word-lively enough. There’s an only generalised melancholy here: the tone of voice changes little, and Boesch’s compensatory and often exaggeratedly quiet singing invariably loses support and focus.


Ballads such as ‘Die beiden Grenadiere’ and ‘Belsazar’ bring out his virile best – it’s as though their dramatic scenarios fully awaken his imagination. But Boesch also misses the drollery and irony within the little triptych of Die arme Peter. Among his contemporaries, both Gerald Finley and Christopher Maltman (both on Hyperion) are to be preferred; though my benchmark so far remains Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s very special 1965 recording with Jörg Demus. Hilary Finch