Hot on the heels of his revelatory account of Die schöne Müllerin, this fine new collection of Schubert songs from the Austrian baritone Florian Boesch offers a typically searching tour d’horizon around the ubiquitous Romantic theme of ‘the wanderer’. By contrast with the Müllerin cycle, however, and its opening celebration of the joys of wandering, these 19 songs (including both rarities and recital regulars) are mostly about its regrets and sorrows, the most popular travel destination being the grave.
The prevailing tone of existential angst and despair finds Boesch thoroughly in his element, brilliantly accompanied at every turn by Roger Vignoles at the piano. As Boesch showed in Die schöne Müllerin, he is particularly good at sustaining moods of rapt introspection or numbed torpor, inflating even a whisper with the full resonance of his rich, vibrant tone. With his perfect diction and intense dramatic manner, he’s also a past master at delivering such killer last lines as ‘joy is all around, yet I am alone’, ‘there, where you are not, lies happiness’ or ‘the “there” is never here’, while the aching despair he brings to the oft-repeated ‘Fair world, where are you?’, at the close of ‘The Gods of Greece’, is utterly heart-stopping in its hopelessness.