Following their highly acclaimed Hugo Wolf lieder album, Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano have renewed their musical partnership with a recording of Franz Schubert’s Schwanengesang, the third and last of the composer’s song cycles, and literally his swan song, as he succumbed to illness shortly after its completion in 1828.
Bostridge and Pappano performed Schwanengesang in recital at the Schwarzenberg (Austria) Schubertiade, at the Edinburgh and Aldeburgh festivals and in Glasgow before committing it to disc: “[a recital] characterised by unaffected intimacy and reverence to the music … The two gave a performance as intense and intriguing as it was timeless.” (The Scotsman); “Each song is a mini-drama … [Bostridge] is a performer of extremes who, at the moment of delivery, convinces you that this is how it must be.” (Evening Standard)
Schwanengesang (“Swan Song”) was published posthumously. This title is attributed to Schubert’s publisher, Haslinger, who, in his attempt to maximize profits after the composer’s death, presented the work as the composer’s final musical testament. In contrast with Schubert’s previous song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, each composed to verses by a single poet, Schwanengesang draws on the work of two poets, Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) and Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). In the original manuscript, all 13 songs (seven by Rellstab, six by Heine) were copied in Schubert’s handwriting on consecutive manuscript pages and appear in the standard performance order. There are thematic connections between the Rellstab and Heine verses in terms of subject matter and musical motifs.
Taubenpost, to a text by Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804-1875), is often performed as a finale to Schwanengesang. However, research indicates that, rather than being intended as such by Schubert, this tradition was initiated by the publisher, who appended the song to the first edition. While the song is not technically part of Schwanengesang, it is considered to be Schubert’s last lied.
Ian Bostridge is firmly established in the opera house, concert hall and recital room, and much sought after internationally as one of the finest of his generation of tenors. He is one of today’s leading interpreters of Schubert lieder, repertoire that he names as his first love. Bostridge’s Schubert cycles and song explorations on EMI Classics began in 1998 with the release of a lieder disc with Julius Drake. Subsequent Schubert lieder albums, most recently The Wanderer, a collection of Schubert lieder and fragments released in summer 2008, and cycles of Der Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin have seen Bostridge in partnership with Leif Ove Andsnes and Mitsuko Uchida.
Ian Bostridge has had an exclusive relationship with EMI Classics since 1997, since which time he has built up a distinguished discography ranging from Schubert to Benjamin Britten and Noel Coward, encompassing German lieder, Mozart opera, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (conducted by Antonio Pappano), English song and French chanson.