Florian Boesch presented an individual exploration of Schubert’s final songs, collected posthumously as Schwanengesang. Boesch and Malcolm Martineau retained the separation of the Rellstab and Heine poems, here interspersed by settings of Goethe, but the order in which they were sung was different from the published sequence.
Boesch was mesmerising from the emotionally expansive opening of ‘Liebesbotschaft’ to the bitter resignation of ‘Der Atlas’. The dramatic journey began with the rippling brook and sighing breezes of the opening two numbers, infusing a bittersweet optimism, which Boesch communicated as effectively with his body as well as his voice. The dramatic and narrative progression of the Rellstab poems was heightened by the re-ordering. The emotional arc was thus more varied and contrasting and Martineau’s characterful accompaniment added to the immediacy, ‘Kriegers Ahnung’ being a theatrical tour de force, emotional dynamics matching singing and playing of extraordinary virtuosity.
Of the three Goethe interpolations, ‘Grenzen der Menschheit’ had a spiritual and metaphysical slant on man’s vulnerability in the face of the gods, and Boesch lived it, while ‘Meeres Stille’ was all hallucinatory calm, Boesch and Martineau painting a picture of an eerie, threatening yet beautiful scene: a perfect prelude to the interior, dystopian landscape of Heine’s poems, and the effect was shattering. Each song grew in intensity and the recital exploded into darkness and despair with ‘Der Atlas’.
‘Die Taubenpost’ (Seidl), Schubert’s ultimate setting and usually included in D957, was given as an encore by way of light relief, Boesch emphasising its materially different tone by referring to it as “the disco song”.