Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles: "Der Wanderer"
Songs by Schubert. Texts and translations. Hyperion CDA 68010
Titles for CD recitals, so common today, are usually embarrassing. But the "Wanderer" idea for this Schubert program is thoughtfully sustained, and it leads to some beautiful songs. Just when we think we get the concept and we're done with it, there is a curveball with the first of Schubert's "Heliopolis" songs, the start of a journey that turns out to be as much spiritual as literal. (Here Florian Boesch colors some of the vocal lines, appropriately enough, as church bells.) Two songs in which the narrator surges forward without knowing where he's going, by boat in "Der Schiffer" and by horse in "Auf der Bruck," are cleverly paired. The wanderer of "Das Heimweh" is staying put but longing to move on. The theme falters momentarily with "Herbst," but at the end of the program a fantastic wild card is played. "Die Mutter Erde" is an obscure song — I've never come across a recording or a performance of it — and it features one of those world-altering minor-to-major modulations that were the supreme gift of this composer. Moreover, for a moment it seems to echo a melody in "Der Wanderer," which began this recital and which was the material for Schubert's "Wanderer" fantasy for solo piano. The succession of songs would be engaging even if the performances offered here were not as good.
Boesch is a baritone, but his lowest notes show real bass colorings, not wispiness. His interpretations, with pianist Roger Vignoles, tend to be all of a piece. Although he is a fine storyteller for a song like "Auf der Donau," he isn't one to highlight single isolated words. He lets the poems speak for themselves, eschewing much delineation of different speakers in "Der Pilgrim." His vocalism doesn't call attention to itself in overt ways —"Der Wanderer an den Mond" is downright homespun and "Auf der Bruck" is all the more effective for the contained excitement — but there is risk-taking on the softer end of the spectrum. In "Die Götter Griechenlands" he ventures some virtually unsupported singing. It works for the microphones, if not for the concert hall, and the muted calls of "come back" are devastating, even haunting. Vignoles and Boesch take "Der Kreuzzug" too briskly, leaving some depths unexplored. But "Der Pilgrim," which seems at first to share the fault, turns out in the end to illustrate how absolute certainties in life turn out to be easily thwarted. At the end of the recital, a Winterreise in the poetic progression if not in the musical one, the singer finds himself lost and spent in another realm. It's an unusually rewarding hour of song.
WILLIAM R. BRAUN
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