This Hyperion release is the second recording that Florian Boesch has made of Schubert’s Winterreise (the first was six years ago with Malcolm Martineau for Onyx), here with his frequent collaborator Roger Vignoles. The low-voice transpositions don’t encourage explicit histrionics and, indeed, the one flaw in this otherwise superbly imagined and executed account comes in the few songs where Boesch lets rip with volume and tone. Otherwise, his approach of shuffling memory, narrative and delusion with Schubert’s stupefyingly accurate expression of blank objectivity, tenderness and desolation has a deeply involving immediacy—and in terms of Boesch’s realisation of the spurned lover’s mental disintegration, his way into the cycle is entirely modern. As on the earlier version, Boesch favours singing very close to the microphone in the quieter songs, which ramps up a slightly generic, crooning intimacy, rather at the expense of Boesch’s formidably eloquent and layered mezza-voce. His relationship to the poems is supple and conversational, and he is a natural at conveying the cycle’s conflation of time, with the result that the listener’s attention flickers between high intensity and abject detachment.
This is a decidedly Beckettian Winterreise, subtly pushed to the edge by Vignoles’s pianism—the neutral pace he sets of ‘Gute Nacht’ is just one instance of the skill with which he keeps things in reserve, so that there is a constant frisson of the unexpected, and throughout he cajoles and comforts the singer while exposing the reality behind the lover’s increasingly desperate hallucinations. Between the two of them, Boesch and Vignoles manage to keep a purchase on the cycle that is both unaffected and extraordinarily sophisticated, and the nearest they get to full expressionism is in their brisk ‘Der Leiermann’, a spectral fragment from an unknown region. The booklet includes German text and an English translation.