Autograph is a career-spanning seven-disc set personally selected by English tenor Ian Bostridge in celebration of his 50th birthday. Organised thematically, discs 1 and 2 cover the Lieder for which Bostridge is justly famous – Wolf, Schumann and Schubert, including Winterreise in its entirety. Discs 3 and 4 are devoted to early music, with a lengthy selection of excerpts from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, and including briefer coverage of Dido and Aeneas, Mozart’s Idomeneo and Die Entführung aus dem Serail, plus a sprinkling of Handel.
Then it’s on to substantial excerpts from Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Billy Budd, and The Turn of the Screw, before returning to two complete Lieder cycles. In an usual pairing, Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Janácˇek’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared are bracketed together under ‘Allegories of Love,’ the rationale for which you can hear Bostridge discuss on the final disc, a lengthy (80 minutes!) interview.
It’s extraordinary for a singer to have such command of the differing vocal demands of repertoire covering four centuries, and if your early music preferences are with period performances, Bostridge’s readings may not quite be for you. He is especially good with Britten, and, not surprisingly, at his transcendental best with the intimate emotional intensity of Schubert and Schumann; the Janácˇek also is a revelation. If you’re not already a fan, this is a very good place to start; if you are, it’s a great retrospective and a steal at $39.95.