Festival Music

Florian Boesch

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

five stars

IN WHAT cannot have been accidental scheduling, Wednesday evening's opinion-dividing concert of Hans Zender's "recomposed" Winterreise was followed little more than twelve hours later by a classic performance of Schubert's other best-known song cycle, also setting Wilhelm Muller, Die Schone Mullerin.

Baritone Florian Boesch must have sung the work oodles of times, but his storytelling invitation into the opening song, Wandering, could hardly have been more enticing, and the communication between him and pianist Malcolm Martineau – absolutely on peak form here – could not have been more immediately obvious in the rhythms, pauses and dynamics. The animation they both later brought to Impatience was another revelation: Boesch and Martineau are quite simply the people you want to hear perform this work, which made it all the odder that there were, most unusually at this Festival, a few empty seats in the Queen's Hall. Boesch not only has the arc of the entire cycle understood as few other singers do, he also demonstrates that understanding in each individual song, employing different inflexions and tonal variations in each lyrical repetition. His emotional investment in The Beloved Colour and its partner The Loathsome Colour made that somewhat laboured metaphor a passionate thing, and in the existential angst of After Work his voice was at one moment a whisper and the next a cry of anguish. And as for that wobble in his voice at the end of Pause? It was heartbreaking.

The sequence has its better known songs of course, of which Morning Greeting, addressed to the pretty miller's lass, is perhaps the most famous. In Boesch's hands it was as an irresistible sunrise seduction as you will ever hear.