BBC Music Magazine
Schumann • Mahler Lieder
Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano) Linn CKD 511
Why do you think Mahler was drawn to the song cycle?
There is nothing more powerful than words being turned into sounds; he understood that. The union of words and music creates something poetic that you cannot achieve another way. It’s something that happens strongly with Mahler in general, but particularly here; something emerges that hasn’t been visible before. If you try to read his text alone it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, but it is mesmerising when combined with the music. Despite his huge symphonies, he never gave up the human voice and his language.
Why pair these two composers?
I wanted to show that what Schumann suggests to us is very clearly developed in the Mahler. Both put the human condition under the magnifying glass.
You’ve enjoyed a long partnership with pianist Malcolm Martineau. What’s the secret to a successful duo?
Malcolm’s genius helps! There is an element of trust, understanding and common sense about the music. We speak a lot about music and poetry when we’re walking in the woods, but when we sit together and make music we don’t speak so much anymore; the music, and our understanding, takes over. It’s very instinctive; we invite each other, all the time, to come up with the inspiration of the moment, and not work to a plan. Sometimes it’s problematic; we can never record the same song the next day and try to patch something in, because it won’t be even close to what we did the day before.
You recorded at Crear on the West coast of Scotland; a suitably remote location for this material!
I remember it well; it was a stunning place. We recorded it in a converted sheep barn facing the sea, and you could see the Isle of Jura. It was quite amazing how very quickly this place transformed your memory. There, it was much easier to forget all the existing recordings you’d heard of Schumann’s Op. 39 – it suggested to us to do something that was as disconnected as that place was from our cultural world. It was very inspiring and I enjoyed recording there very much.