Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson, Wigmore Hall, review: Boesch does not just sing this music, he inhabits it to the hilt

His voice has a thrilling edge, and he colours his lines with delicate artistry

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The Independent Culture

Is the song recital an endangered art-form? Full marks to John Gilhooly, director of the Wigmore, for coming out of his corner to belabour the doubters and purveyors of shoddy goods. As he’s pointed out in this newspaper, song recitals these days are often given by opera singers who don’t bother to prepare, ‘and why would anyone whose first experience is of someone bluffing their way through pieces they barely know go back for more?’

Putting his money where his mouth is, he’s launched a two-year project to celebrate Schubert’s complete output, and this opened in high style with a concert of the composer’s earliest songs by the Austrian baritone Florian Boesch and the British pianist Graham Johnson.

The programme began with a mysteriously chromatic little number written when the composer was thirteen, and consisted mostly of little-known works. But Boesch doesn’t just sing this music, he inhabits it to the hilt. His voice has a thrilling edge, and he colours his lines with delicate artistry, yet his approach is as natural as conversation, never going for effects for their own sake, or inflating the importance of trifles which some of these songs indubitably are.

Conjuring up with Johnson’s aid the bleakness of graveyards, the majesty of storms at sea, and the carefree quality of extreme youth, he held us spellbound.    

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