We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau
This year alone we have reviewed Schubert's searing song cycle Winterreise several times (all reviews can be found through the search bar) and each time, save one, we have heard it anew; we have never grown tired of it and never will.  Such is the genius of Franz Schubert's music and Wilhelm Müller's poetry.

One might think of the music and text as a blueprint with each artist attempting to construct a personal edifice therefrom.  Last night at Weill Recital Hall Austrian baritone and English pianist Malcolm Martineau put a highly personal stamp on the work.

The cycle of poems traces the wintry wanderings of a jilted lover who undergoes extreme emotional distress similar to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' so-called "stages" of grief which, in fact, are not discreet and always overlap.  The songs contain a balance between nostalgia, melancholy, vain hopefulness, anger, despair and resignation.

Mr. Boesch's idiosyncratic interpretation leaned rather heavily on the side of anger, especially in the first half of the cycle, shortchanging the balance that we believe was intended.  Nearly every song ended with an outburst of bitterness or anger.

It was not until mid-cycle in "Frühlingstraum" (one of our favorite songs), when we heard the intended alternation between the pleasure of the dreaming poet and the pain he feels upon awakening, that we could appreciate Mr. Boesch's more delicate side. The artistic choices in the second half of the program offered more variety and balance.

Mr. Boesch has a magnificent instrument and, although we have never heard his Wozzeck, we are sure he excels in that role. His innate sense of theatrics allowed him to color words and to create variety in the strophic songs from one verse to the next.  At times however he leaned a bit too strenuously on certain words, creating excessive emphasis.

Mr. Martineau was equally intense and propulsive at the piano with great variety in his dynamics.  He played full out in the preludes and postludes but he was supportive and restrained while Mr. Boesch was singing.  The attention of the audience was as rapt as the performances were intense; we just felt this performance to be slightly heavy-handed.  Still, it was a valid and operatic interpretation of a man's descent into madness.

© meche kroop

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