Wigmore Hall Monday Afternoon recitals differ from evening concerts because they’re shorter and more relaxed. Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau proved that “relaxed” does not in any way mean lowering of standards. They presented a strong programme of Schumann and Wolf with refreshing panache. ,For example, Die beiden Grenadiere, Op.49 No.1 where they seemed to create the physical presence of two tough soldiers, still marching defiantly in defeat. One man thinks of home, but the other is still truculent, the strains of the Marseillaise ringing in his ears. More Heine, with Abends am Strand, Op.45 No.3 Another pair watch a fishing boat, and chat about distant lands “und von den seltsamen Menschen und seltsammen Sitten dort” They don’t like dirty foreigners (literally) ! So they sit, unmoved, on the beach, on the fringes of life, as darkness envelops them, in every sense.
Die feindlichen Brüder, Op.49 yet another pair of men fight a battle so cataclysmic that they and their castle are destroyed, and their ghosts continue to struggle, for centuries after. Boesch and Martineau would have compiled this programme ages ago, but Heine feels remarkably prescient in the light of recent events.
For a breather, Boesch and Martineau then switched to Schumann’s settings of Chamisso, Op 40, where they did all four songs in the set to telling effect. The first two songs, Märzvielchen Op 40/1 and Muttertraum Op 40/2, are relatively gentle but Der Soldat Op40//3 ends in sheer horror. A man loves another more dearly than anyone else in the world, But what’s happening ? His pal is being executed. And by whom, and in what circumstances ? The psychological levels are complex. This is an extremely disturbing song, despite the steady march pace. In comparison even Der Spielmann Op 40/4 might seem conventional. since it connects to ancient traditions connecting fiddlers with death In a macabre twist, Schumann set this poem about a cursed wedding on the eve of his marriage to Clara.
Eight songs by Hugo Wolf, including the less ubiquitous Wolf settings of Goethe’s Harfenspeiler songs, then back to Schumann and Heine for Belsatzar op 54. In the piano part, the music reels riotously, as if at a drunken orgy. “Ich bin der Kõnig von Babylon!”, sang Boesch, just slightly off kilter so you could imagine the King puffed up but wobbly. At his moment of triumph, the King is struck down Heed the Writing on the Wall, puffed-up would-be leaders of men.
“The Twitter of the 19th century”, announced Boesch before commencing another Schumann setting of Chamisso, Verratene Lieder . Two lovers kiss in secret but the stars pass it on, and soon everyone is in on the act. Let no one think that Lieder is not cutting-edge social observation. Listen again here on BBC Radio 3.
Original Source: Lieder as Social Comment? Boesch Wigmore Hall