Ian Bostridge and Thomas Ades, Barbican, classical review: A triumph

An unforgettable concert,with Thomas Ades providing an accompaniment of exquisite delicacy and suggestiveness

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Winter’s Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession is the title of the eclectic and stimulatingly off-beat book Ian Bostridge has just published, and that obsession is at once Schubert’s and his own.

In it he uses Winterreise as a lens through which to view the composer’s life and times, but in performance he proved why this song-cycle of progressive alienation should have numbered not only Benjamin Britten but also Samuel Beckett among its ardent admirers.

Gone were the old familiar mannerisms of Bostridge the recitalist: with Thomas Ades providing an accompaniment of exquisite delicacy and suggestiveness, he stayed humbly in character from first note to last, from the wistful candour of the opening ‘Gute Nacht’ until the bleached and frozen adieu of ‘Der Leiermann’, the dying beggar-musician.

And he told it all like a story, gently colouring his sound as the text demanded, and moving his limbs as though tossed by the gale of his emotions and of the images they conjured up.

Vienna’s verdant springs and pitiless winters framed the action, with the protagonist’s encroaching delusions driving him on: what riveted us was not so much Bostridge’s beauty of tone as the emotional truth of every line, underscored as it was by Ades’s refined pianism. Unforgettable.