Ian Bostridge brings his characterful lyricism, and singing of beautiful intelligence, to a welcome sixth volume in Graham Johnson’s comprehensive series. "The lovesick texts are somewhat overwrought and highly coloured to modern ears, but Bostridge is totally convincing, particularly in his wonderfully sensitive handling of the Op 96 collection. Johnson, that poet of the piano, underpins everything with just the right level of ardour—and he writes tremendous sleeve notes."
The first few minutes of each of these recordings of Schubert’s overwhelming song cycle hardly seem to belong to the same work. Klaus Mertens , more familiar in sacred music and now in his late fifties, is introduced by a clangorous fortepiano, none too sensitively banged by Tini Mathot, and sounds like an elderly workman off to the day’s slog. Christine Schäfer, who never sounds more than 16, is launched by the perky tones of Eric Schneider, and when she enters it is as a cheerful small bird greeting the sun. Schäfer raises the issue of whether this cycle should be sung by a woman at all, but Lotte Lehmann, Christa Ludwig and above all Brigitte Fassbaender prove that it can be, with magnificent results.
Schubert knew madness. He knew it to the depths of his soul and feared it. And out of his fear he wrote the greatest monument to love lost, to death lost, to madness found. He wrote Die Winterreise, the most hopeless art work ever conceived by the despairing mind of man. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the voice of Winterreise. In small part, this is because he recorded it seven times between 1952 and 1990. In larger part, this is because he is able to transform himself into the despairing lover. Yet Fischer-Dieskau is still the most lucid and most technically controlled of madmen. As Ingmar Bergman remarked on actor Max von Sydow, "If I'd had a psychopath to present these deeply psychopathic roles, it would have been unbearable".
The Gramophone-award winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake turns to perhaps the most celebrated song-cycle of them all. Schubert’s Winterreise is a masterpiece of despair, astonishing in its bleakness and enthrallingly mesmerizing as the journey continues. Finley brings all his considerable dramatic powers to his performance—and all but submerges them under the ice.
Recorded live in 2011 at the Aldeburgh Festival, which Benjamin Britten founded in 1948, this performance of his dark, intense chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia stars Angelika Kirchschlager, Peter Coleman-Wright and Ian Bostridge, with Oliver Knussen conducting. “Everything, without exception, was right on the money,” said The Guardian,” … a dazzling success.”