The Songs of Brahms – 6: Sung by Ian Bostridge

Tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Graham Johnson bring to life Brahm's collected songs.

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: The Songs of Brahms – 6
WORKS: Complete songs, Vol. 6: Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 32; Vier Lieder, Op. 96; Die Kränze, Op. 46/1; Botschaft, Op. 47/1; Liebesglut, Op. 47/2; Es liebt sich so lieblich, Op. 71/1; Ständchen, Op. 106/1; Meine Lieder, Op. 106/4 etc
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ33126

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Ian Bostridge joins a distinguished company in this ongoing collected edition of Brahms’s songs, where his predecessors include Robert Holl and Christopher Maltman. Masterminding the project is leading accompanist Graham Johnson, whose generously proportioned and insightful liner notes are in themselves a major asset.

As so often, Bostridge proves to be a real if mixed quantity. On the plus side, there’s his customary detailed attention to text; he uses some idiosyncratic tonal colouring to paint in its meanings, but the approach is always intelligent. He is at his most lyrically graceful in Die Kränze, and finds just the right level of tone for each phrase of Botschaft. Geheimnis is delivered with considerable charm. The starkness and gloom of Auf dem Kirchhofe suit both performers, while Sommerabend proves congenial, and Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht is quite simply a great performance of a great song.

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But Liebesglut could do with greater tonal variety and Es liebt sich so liebliche im Lenze! with more warmth. Bostridge is arch in the well-known Ständchen and the heartiness of Unüberwindlich seems alien to him. A couple of entire opus numbers are included, and Johnson’s notes make a good case for viewing Op. 32 as a true cycle, despite two different poets being drawn on. Even bearing in mind the limitations in Bostridge’s vocalism, this is a worthwhile addition to an important series. George Hall