Back in 2102, Austrian baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau gave us a searingly intense Winterreise. Hot on its heels comes Wilhelm Müller’s prequel, Die schöne Müllerin, and anyone expecting a gentle ramble beside a chattering brook had better look elsewhere.
Once again, Boesch and Martineau demonstrate how deeply one can peer into dark waters with an interpretation that’s mercurial, febrile and ecstatic by turns.
The setting off is full of jauntiness – this miller is determined to find romance, come what may. Boesch wields his light baritone to great effect, toying with words and notes. Martineau’s outburst into Halt!, is the first sign that all is not well – this young man is likely to crash and burn – and the way Boesch twists the phrase “the darling girl wishes everyone goodnight” in Am Feierabend (when clearly she is meant to except the miller from her farewells) proves it. It’s a true partnership as each takes turns to play the subtext, whether musical or literary. Listen to Martineau’s staggering left hand in Ungeduld against stabbing quavers in the right – I’ve never heard it so unhinged – the music says what the words hint at. In other places it’s the other way around, Boesch revealing undercurrents while Martineau plays the calm surface.
When they coincide emotionally, as in Der Jäger or a drained Trockne Blumen the results are devastating and as compelling as watching a road accident. This recording is an object lesson in musical dramatics, and deserves to be in every lieder lover’s library.