Austrian baritone Florian Boesch (below) is the latest – and among the most successful to date – of the younger generation of lieder singers to tackle Winterreise. With pianist Malcolm Martineau, he gives a notably unnerving performance of what Schubert called his "cycle of terrifying songs", which is often all the more powerful for being so admirably reined-in. Boesch's methodology has often been described as expressionist, though in this instance he's less overtly declamatory than you might expect, singing the work as much off the lines as the text. As with Christopher Maltman's recent, very different Winterreise for Wigmore Hall Live, this is not so much a statement about the inherent loneliness of the human condition, as a study of one man's mental disintegration. But where Maltman's traveller implodes late, Boesch presents us with a slow unravelling of the psyche, as merciless as it is detailed. The hallucinatory quality of his interpretation is matched by a corresponding vividness in Martineau's playing, which uncompromisingly suggests the corrosive impact of the comfortless winter landscape on the protagonist's mind. It makes for very difficult listening, but is unquestionably superb.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss