Schubert: Schwanengesang, D957

Reviewed on Wed 04 Mar, 2015

After well-received accounts of Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise (also on Onyx) comes this thoughtful, quietly challenging Schwanengesang from Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau. With Seidl’s 'Die Taubenpost' omitted, the Rellstab and Heine settings have been collated together with five contemporaneous settings of Goethe interpolated between them. As the emotional trajectory arcs inexorably from light to darkness, Boesch’s rich, redolent use of colour, dynamics and phrasing mark him out as one of the most thoughtful and nuanced baritones of his generation. Striking performances of an almost voyeuristic 'Ständchen' (the sense of detachment momentarily echoed in 'Das Fischermädchen'), the emotionally raw 'Ihr Bild', a grippingly intense 'Der Doppelgänger' and, not least, the excoriating finale of 'Der Atlas', paint a compelling picture of someone being slowly enveloped by shadows and madness. Martineau’s precisely delineated accompaniment matches vocal expressiveness with a flexibility that is both feline and fierce. Idiosyncratic some of these accounts may be, but they’re no less compelling for that.
–Michael Quinn