Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Boesch / Martineau review – Leap Day treat streamed live from the Wigmore Hall

29 February 2024

Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau get up close and personal with Brahms, Schoeck and Schumann.

Malcolm Martineau & Florian Boesch

Malcolm Martineau & Florian Boesch (Photo: The Wigmore Hall Trust)

The Wigmore Hall continues its excellent free streaming service with this sombre recital from one of today’s leading song partnerships. Well judged close-ups enable us to experience the intimacy of the music and interpretation, although the voice could have been more effectively miked.

Brahms’ songs were all very much this singer’s style, focusing strongly on deep introspection, forceful drama and vivid characterization. ‘Mit vierzig Jahren’ showcased the partnership perfectly, from Florian Boesch’s wry acceptance of ageing to Malcolm Martineau’s fluently reassuring nachspiel. ‘Sehnsucht’ was almost prayerful in its serenity, and ‘Dein blaues Auge’ displayed the singer’s exceptional ability to plumb the depths of low notes without loss of line.

It’s not often that you get to hear songs by Othmar Schoeck, so the next group presented a welcome opportunity to experience a composer whose influences are obviously Schubert, Wolf and Schumann but whose individuality shines through in songs such as ‘Warum sind den die Rosen so blass?’ which sets one of Heine’s most anguished poems in a strikingly modern way,  the Romantic longing tempered with a sense of distance. Boesch and Martineau gave it a vivid, passionate performance.

“The Wigmore Hall continues its excellent free streaming service with this sombre recital…”

Schoeck’s sense of irony is neatly displayed in ‘Bei der Kirche’ where the poet watches worshippers on their way to church and says that he will pray for them – Boesch’s tone here spoke volumes about how the speaker really views religion. ‘Ravenna,’ set to a poem by Hermann Hesse, seems at first a dispassionate view of an ancient city, but concludes with a reflection on how we are moved by ‘alte Lieder’ – it’s a lovely song which was given full justice.

Boesch and Martineau have recorded Schumann’s Liederkreis Op. 39 to much acclaim, and their performance here showed that their interpretation has not stood still. Boesch’s at times gravelly tone is now used even more fervently in songs like ‘Intermezzo’ with its beseeching phrases and limpid piano, and in ‘Waldesgespräch’ the menace of the speaker is frighteningly vivid, with Martineau’s piano stabbing at the fearful realization.

‘Wehmut’ was an object lesson in delivering a song full of melancholy without undue sentimentality, whilst nevertheless conveying the depths of sadness both in the singer’s tone and the piano’s phrasing. ‘Frühlingsnacht’ was a no holds barred display of Schumann intensity, the fervent phrases reminding us that under the melancholy and irony, both composer and singer are still both ever-hoping romantics.

Boesch introduced Liederkreis by saying that Schumann’s statement about every song in the cycle being the feelings of someone who is in a place where he did not want to be, “made perfect sense” to him. He obviously did want to be here though, as did the audience whose appreciation was rewarded with two beautiful Schumann encores, a melancholy ‘An die Turen will ich schleichen’, and an intense ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’ which once again displayed the perfect partnership of this baritone and accompanist.

• This performance can be streamed from here.

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