Ian Bostridge/Mitsuko Uchida – review

Wigmore Hall, London

Ian Bostridge and Mitsuko Uchida have taken Schubert's winter journey of the soul together many times. But with two such intelligent artists performing in a near-ideal venue such as the Wigmore, it came as no surprise that there was nothing routine about their latest exploration of the Winterreise song-cycle.

Bostridge is only recently returned from an enforced vocal break, which perhaps explains why he started a little cautiously, not teasing as much detail from the opening three songs as Uchida immediately revealed in her compellingly hushed accompaniment. But by the time he reached the emotional disorientation of Numbness, the fourth song, little was held back.

Bostridge's light, high tenor, and his punctilious German, were especially effective in the dreamier, more hallucinatory songs such as The Linden Tree and The Crow, and his account of the cycle became increasingly gripping. It reached a dark intensity in the solemn pairing of The Signpost and The Inn, and ended with a typically bleak rendering of The Organ-Grinder. Some may dislike Bostridge's habit of pacing around the platform in front of the piano, but this is a cycle that compels restlessness. Both the unusual timbre of Bostridge's tenor and the calculated physicality of his stage manner add to the sense of the protagonist as a person on the edge.

By contrast, Uchida's piano-playing became almost mannered in its restraint and introspection. But the control, the mastery of half-tones, and the profound seriousness of her playing of Schubert's chords, especially memorable in The Inn, was music-making of the highest order. As so often in performances as an accompanist, Uchida seemed to be silently singing every word. Not a conventional art-song Winterreise in any way, but an absolutely riveting evening all the same.


Martin Kettle

The GuardianTramp

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