Winter Daydreams

These may be songs of doom and despair but the emotion contained herein is palpable.

Composer: Schubert
Repertoire: Winterreise

Artist: Florian Boesch (bar), Malcolm Martineau (pf)
Rating: 5/5

Genre: Vocal
Label: Onyx 4077

The Music: Schubert’s 1828 song cycle, based on 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller, has become a core work of the Lieder repertoire. The songs tell of a young man who has been betrayed by his love, and who then leaves her to wander aimlessly through a pitiless landscape of snow and ice. To add a further element of pathos, we know that Schubert was ill when he wrote the work and he died in the year of its publication. 

The Performance: Twenty four songs about despair and gloom? It takes a singer of enormous emotional range and power to make Schubert’s varying shades of grey compelling for an hour, but Florian Boesch does it. Without ever forcing or telegraphing his emotions, he invites us to witness a soul in torment who longs for a beauty just out of his reach. Malcolm Martineau accompanies with a conductor’s ear for telling sonorities too.

The Verdict: Haunting pianissimos, restrained rage and bitter laughter are all emotional tools in Boesch’s armoury, but he makes Schubert’s protagonist desperately sympathetic too. A gripping account of a masterpiece.