Ian Bostridge CBE has made regular appearances at the Salzburg, Edinburgh, Munich, Vienna, Schwarzenberg and Aldeburgh festivals. He has had residencies at the Wiener Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall New York, Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Luxembourg, London’s Barbican Centre and Wigmore Hall. In 2018 Ian began an auspicious Artistic Residency with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the first of its kind for the ensemble.
In opera, he has performed the roles Lysander (Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream) for Opera Australia and at the Edinburgh Festival, Jeptha at the Opéra National de Paris, Tamino (Mozart Die Zauberflöte) and Jupiter (Handel Semele) for English National Opera and Peter Quint (Britten The Turn of the Screw), Don Ottavio (Mozart Don Giovanni) and Caliban (Adès The Tempest) for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. For the Bayerische Staatsoper he has sung Nerone (Monteverdi L’Incoronazione di Poppea), Tom Rakewell (Stravinsky The Rake’s Progress) and Male Chorus (Britten The Rape of Lucretia), for the Wiener Staatsoper he has sung Don Ottavio and for the Teatro alla Scala Milan he has sung Peter Quint. He has sung Aschenbach (Britten Death in Venice) for English National Opera, La Monnaie, Brussels, Deutsche Oper and in Luxembourg.
Future highlights include a recital and lecture series for the University of Chicago, Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Barcelona Symphony and Marta Gardolińska, Britten’s War Requiem with Kent Nagano and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and with Philippe Jordan and the San Francisco Symphony, Evangelist St Matthew Passion for Teatro Regio Torino, Bajazet Tamerlano in concert for the Moscow State Philharmonic, Winterreise with Sir Antonio Pappano at the Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin and further performances with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau of his composition for Ian, The Folly of Desire.
Video & Audio
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From The Green Room
- More info Monteverdi: Orfeo
- More info Requiem: The Pity of War
Label: Warner Classics
Release Date: 26 Oct 18
In commemoration of the Centenary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918
Tenor: Ian Bostridge
Piano: Antonio Pappano
- More info Ode for St Cecilia's Day
- More info Songs by Schubert 3
Label: Wigmore Hall Live
Release Date: 23 Jun 17
From Schubert’s joyful tribute to the natural world in ‘Der Einsame’ to the desolation of ‘Der Wanderer an den Mond’ this delicately shaped programme explores the theme of longing in various guises. This release, the third volume in this Wigmore Hall Live series, captures some of the most exquisitely crafted songs of the nineteenth century.
- More info Shakespeare Songs
- More info Ian Bostridge - Autograph
Label: Presto Classical / Warner Classics
Release Date: 25 Sep 15
Creating a biographical panorama of his career, the British tenor Ian Bostridge has personally selected each track in this 7CD Autograph collection. With a focus on both song (in German and English) and opera (from Monteverdi to Adès by way of Handel, Mozart and Britten), it demonstrates just why he is recognised as one of today’s most distinctive, intelligent and compelling singers. The tenor also complements his performances with an exclusive and illuminating audio interview.
- More info The Songs of Brahms - 6
- More info SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin, Winterreise, Schwanengesang
- More info Songs by Schubert - 2
- More info BRITTEN: War Requiem
- More info Songs by Schubert
- More info BRITTEN: The Rape of Lucretia
- More info Three Baroque Tenors
- More info BRITTEN: A Midsummer Night's Dream
- More info BACH: St Matthew Passion
- More info SCHUBERT: Schwanengesang and other Lieder
- More info ADES: The Tempest (Caliban)
- More info WOLF: Lieder
- More info BRITTEN: Les Illuminations / Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings / Nocturne
- More info SCHUBERT: Winterreise
- More info BACH: Cantatas & Arias
- More info SCHUBERT: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 25 Die schöne Müllerin
- More info BRITTEN: The Red Cockatoo / The Holy Sonnets of John Donne and Other Songs
- More info BRITTEN: Serenade / Our Hunting Fathers
- More info 22 Nov 19 BRITTEN Death in Venice Deutsche Oper Berlin
“Son art du legato, sa vive intelligence du texte, sa sensibilité teintée d’humour lui valent une immense ovation du public berlinois…”
[Translated] “His art of legato, his keen intelligence of the text, his sensitivity tinged with humor earned him a huge ovation from the Berlin public…”
Claire de Oliveira, Olyrix, 23 November 2019
” Der englische Tenor zählt zu den bedeutendsten Liedsängern der Gegenwart. Seine Stärken liegen in der Wandlungsfähigkeit seiner Stimme, plastisch und hochdramatisch im Ausdruck, technisch mühelos in jeder Stimmlage, emotional aufgeladen, aber nie künstlich. Mit Britten beschäftigt sich der promovierte Historiker seit seinen Anfängen als Chorsänger. Sich einem Werk anzunähern bedeutet für ihn tiefes Eintauchen in die Gedanken- und Empfindungswelt des Schöpfers. Das leistete er in seiner Beschäftigung mit ‘Death in Venice’ gründlich und überzeugend.
Ian Bostridge als Gustav von Aschenbach auf der Bühne in der Deutschen Oper Berlin ist ein Hochgenuss beim Hören und in seiner Darstellung fesselnd in jedem Augenblick. Selbstreflexiv sinniert er, nur vom Flügel begleitet, über den Sinn der Kunst, mischt sich in den explosiven Orchesterklang zum Treiben auf der Bühne, durchlebt das Stadium der Vernunft wie der selbstaufgebenden Leidenschaft beim Anblick des Jünglings, durchschreitet traumatische Zustände und endet mit einem letzten Abgesang, einem Melodiebogen, den er so überirdisch-schön, schmerzvoll niedergehend im Nichts verklingen lässt.”
[Translated] “The English tenor is one of the most important singers of the present day. His strengths lie in the versatility of his voice, vivid and highly dramatic in expression, technically effortless in every voice, emotionally charged, but never artificial. The historian, who holds a doctorate in history, has been dealing with Britten since his beginnings as a choral singer. To approach a work means for him a deep immersion in the thought and sensation world of the creator. He did that in his preoccupation with ‘Death in Venice’
Ian Bostridge as Gustav von Aschenbach on stage at the Deutsche Oper Berlin is a real treat when listening and captivating in every moment of his performance. Self-reflexive, he muses, accompanied only by the grand piano, about the meaning of art, mingles with the explosive orchestral sound to the bustle on stage, undergoes the state of reason as the self-giving passion at the sight of the youth, passes through traumatic states and ends with a last swan song, a melodic bow, which he leaves so unearthly beautiful, painfully sinking down in nothingness.”
Christiane Franke, Klassik Magazine, 22 November 2019
- More info 30 Sep 19 Bartók, Sibelius, Mustonen and more Wigmore Trio Wigmore Hall
“Ian Bostridge excelled in his role as word-painter, evoking ancient landscapes in almost operatic style.”
Amanda-Jane Doran, Classical Source, 30 September 2019
“Bostridge was a compelling storyteller, conveying Väinämöinen’s quiet wisdom, Louhi’s fierce anger and Ilmarinen’s relentless determination. His unaccompanied voice compelled with its directness and provided moments of pause instilled with dramatic tension; at the close, the vocalise in which Väinämöinen heralds the release of the moon and sun was spellbinding.”
Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 01 October 2019
- More info 13 Apr 19 Schubert Die schöne Müllerin Wigmore Hall
“Is it possible to out-Bostridge Ian Bostridge? Apparently, yes, since this performance of Die schöne Müllerin was even more anguished, angry and ‘acted’ than many previous ones by the master of both wringing the hands and wringing the heart.”
Melanie Eskenazi, MusicOMH, 15 April 2019
- More info 09 Nov 18 ARTICLE: The Daily Telegraph 'Marking the Tragedy of War through Music is No Easy Talk'
“From the horror of the First World War came some of the most arresting works of the 20th century; great paintings (many of them commissioned by the government) and great poems, none greater than those of Wilfred Owen. Yet the music of the war is harder to define.
I realised this when putting together a song recital programme to mark the centenary of the Armistice – a programme which I’ve recorded with Antonio Pappano and which we’ll perform next month at the Barbican in London. There was a dearth of piano-accompanied songs relating to the experience of men who fought in the Great War. It’s as if it took time for the experience of war to filter into the musical consciousness.
So I decided to take a more oblique approach. I found two small song cycles – one English and one German, by composers both killed during the conflict – which seem to have very little to do with war, but are heavy with the poignancy of imminent departure.
‘Ich will dir singen ein Hohelied’ (‘I will sing you a song of songs’) was written by Rudi Stephan, one of the great hopes of German early 20th-century music. His work is hyper-expressive, sophisticated and full of piquant harmonies which point, colour and embroider sensuous, even erotic words by the female poet Gerda von Robertus. Drafted for war service just as he was engaged in preliminary work on a new opera dealing with the problem (as he put it) of world peace, Stephan was shot in the head by a Russian sniper on the Galician front in September 1915.
If Stephan was the greatest loss for German music in the Great War, George Butterworth was a similar figure for England. Yet his settings of six of AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad poems are a world away from Stephan’s bohemian sensibility, steeped as they are in the folksong tradition.
A sort of rustic melancholia reigns at the heart of Butterworth’s cycle, as it does in Housman’s poems. The songs were written in 1911 and 1912: war is a muted presence and a premonition. One song tells of “the lads that will die their glory and never be old”, reminding us of Housman’s appeal to soldiers who went to war in Flanders (and in South Africa during the Second Boer War), carrying his poems in their knapsacks.
Despite Butterworth’s early death – a war hero, he was shot through the head by a sniper at the Battle of the Somme – it was his kind of music that was to dominate English composition under the aegis of his great friend Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose Pastoral Symphony appeared in 1922. The prevailing mood was now of bucolic nostalgia, and composers such as Gerald Finzi were quick to embrace it.
The remainder of the CD includes songs by Mahler, whose musical materials reflect his upbringing amid the militarism of the Habsburg Empire, pieces that are by turn terrifying and tender; and songs by Kurt Weill, which set poems of Walt Whitman from the American Civil War (the first conflict to use machine guns) but were written during the Second World War.
We shall be performing all these songs in the Barbican in December, and the programme will end with what, for me, is the most terrifying war song of all, Britten’s “The Children”, which contains the line: “The blood of children stares from the broken stone.” The poem, by Scottish pacifist William Soutar, was written during the Spanish Civil War, but is set by Britten during Vietnam. The song ends with the pianist’s fingers rising pitchlessly from the keyboard, the pedal down, with a mechanical thud which evokes a muted echo of mechanised slaughter.
“My subject is War, and the pity of War,” Wilfred Owen famously wrote in 1918, not long before his own death. “The Poetry,” he added, “is in the pity”. As Owen would have understood, these songs are not about heroes, nor do they offer consolation. In their grappling with war and with loss, they offer a sort of truth: a truth which makes its own sombre protest.”
- More info 12 Oct 18 Les Illuminations Philharmonie de Paris Le Monde
Translated from French
“The Orchester de Paris gave us, on Thursday 11th October , one of the most exciting concerts heard in months. On the program, Benjamin Britten’s poisonous Illuminations, a harsh and smooth score, hectic and sensual, that the discerning programmatic intelligence of the musical director, Daniel Harding, was a well inspired choice to add to the repertoire of Parisian musicians. Fermented in the bitter anger of the only strings, the Briton exuded even more thirst for the organically expressive material, wild rhythms with the sweetest curves.
In so doing, he followed, preceded, wrapped, accompanied, the man who the history of interpretation designates as the natural heir of Peter Pears, the companion to whom Britten had partly dedicated his score, the tenor, Ian Bostridge, long tortured figure that seems to inhabit, until the hallucination, the rimbaldian prose. Foul drunkenness, anathema spit like gunpowder, demiurgic outbursts, sneers, but also legato to break the heart, the British tenor does not care about the beauty of his sound.
Only poetry counts, which he declaims sometimes more than he sings, not hesitating to produce strange, almost animal sounds. Such intensity in self-giving is rare. The recurrent phrase – “I have the key to this wild parade alone” – may never have sounded so true.”
- More info 08 Oct 18 WORLD PREMIERE: 'All the Hills and Vales Along' Cumnock Tryst Festival
“…Tryst’s centrepiece was the world premiere of MacMillan’s All the Hills and Vales Along for solo tenor, mixed chorus, brass band and strings. Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra (who perform an orchestral version next month) and 14-18 NOW, it sets five poems by Charles Hamilton Sorley, a Scottish poet shot and killed in 1915, aged 20, at the battle of Loos. Two conductors were required: MacMillan and Eamonn Dougan, associate conductor of the Sixteen (guest artists at the Tryst).
Jammed in at the back of the packed church, I couldn’t see the soloist, Ian Bostridge, or the Edinburgh Quartet, hidden up in the organ loft, and just managed to glimpse the bobbing tops of the euphoniums’ gleaming bells. Yet the music rose up in spatial grandeur, now ethereal and floating, now raucous and martial. It’s no surprise that the local Dalmellington Band, founded in 1864 and lusty survivors of industrial decline, are regular trophy-winners.
A mix of old and young, they make a magnificent sound. Bostridge, ever eloquent, brought Sorley’s words to life in urgent lament: “Who sent us forth? Who brings us home again?” The Cumnock Festival Chorus coped admirably with MacMillan’s potent, tonal score. Before the piece began, my neighbour had “butterflies” on behalf of her two sisters in the choir. After the massive, ferocious, tam-tam-heavy chords of the finale died away, the audience was on its feet applauding. What did she think? “Incredible. Our parents would have been so proud. And amazed…”
“Something special happened on Saturday evening. It was the centrepiece of this year’s Cumnock Tryst…what Cumnock witnessed was a gripping, gritty and at times all-action score that played to the strengths of its diverse components: the simple effectiveness and raw intensity of the choral scoring; the sublime halo-like, enveloping presence of the strings (set apart high in the rear gallery); the high-energy virtuosic volatility of the brass band; and the searing projection of Bostridge’s unmistakably unoperatic hybrid tenor voice…”
“The big premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s fifth hometown festival was a commission as part of the 14-18 NOW programme marking the centenary of the First World War. The five-movement choral work, All the Hills and Vales Along, setting the verse of Scottish war poet Charles Sorley, with tenor soloist Ian Bostridge joining the Cumnock Tryst Festival Chorus for the premiere, will be heard in an orchestrated version at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra next month, but it seems unlikely that it will have quite the emotional impact of this version, which brilliantly used the intimacy of the church…MacMillan’s new masterwork builds quite magnificently, starting with a melancholy strain from the string quartet before the chorus, brass and percussion combined in an unregimented military march and Bostridge made a soaring entry from his gallery position with the strings…”
- More info 17 Aug 18 Schubert Winterreise with Thomas Adès CBE Wigmore Hall - Pentatone CD
“Ian Bostridge’s performance is revelatory… Bostridge has had a close relationship with Winterreise beginning when he was only 12. He has explored the work diligently and…his obsession with the work is reflected in the strength of this new reading… Bostridge shows unsurpassed attention to the textual nuances and sings with pristine articulation and vocal agility.”
American Record Guide
“Tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist/composer Thomas Adès are two of the most intelligent and probing musicians of the last couple of decades. Anything the pair of them do together is worth keeping an eye on; their new account of Schubert’s bleak song cycle Winterreise is a case-in-point.
From the vocal angle, this is a Winterreise of precise rhythm and diction, but also of personality and tonal subtlety. Listen, for instance, to the delicate vocal shadings Bostridge brings to the minor- and major-mode sections of “Rückblick.” Or the harrowing intensity with which he sings “Wasserflut.” Or the devastating vulnerability displayed in “Rast” and “Frühlingstraum.” It’s not always singing of the lushest beauty (there’s a raw moment or two in “Rast,” for instance) — but that’s the point: the expressive heart of these songs is the goal, and Bostridge gets to that with sometimes terrifying immediacy.”
“In this devastating, brilliant interpretation, Bostridge’s tone is dark, expressive and fluid”
Sarah Urwin Jones, BBC Music Magazine
“Technically his singing is amazing in how it communicates what he sees in the music and text: he goes all out and delivers a performance that becomes an experience to behold, not just a fine recital of great music… Moreover, I think his is a thrilling and utterly gripping account of this masterly lieder cycle…if I have to select a favorite recording, I believe I would choose the Bostridge and Adès. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll waiver a bit, but I won’t change my mind on one thing: this new performance by them must be called an essential acquisition for those Schubert and lieder mavens who regard this cycle as one of the greatest ever.”
“Schubert’s “Winterreise” has been an obsession of sorts for Ian Bostridge, in what is now his third recorded performance…There is a sense that Bostridge is seeking to go to the heart of Müller’s poems through his re-evaluations, performances and writings over the years. Each time he finds some more profound nuances in this intensely moving, haunting and heartbreaking song cycle… With the two performers so motivated to find the authentic meaning in this work, it culminates in the most extraordinary vision of what Bostridge hails as “the greatest of all song cycles”…By the end of this immense journey, one is completely immersed in this spiritual exploration of the wanderer’s soul.”
“This recording dates from last September, when they gave two performances at Wigmore Hall in London. If any audience is present here, they leave no audible sign. Maybe listeners were immobilised by wonder, struck dumb by the impact and wide range of Bostridge’s voice — beautiful, ugly, anguished, tender, robust, bleached… Now that Bostridge is in his mid-fifties, his tenor has advanced from its former “golden boy” tones. Lower notes suddenly plunge us into pits of darkness; top notes may occasionally have ragged edges; some fortissimos are decidedly ungainly. Yet these never become flaws; they simply form part of the mature Bostridge’s toolbox, used to express the full anguish of Schubert’s self-pitying narrator, condemned by a broken heart to wander towards life’s graveyard through Wilhelm Müller’s 24 poems filled with snow, bitter memories and circling crows…I listened to this performance on a bright, hot summer’s day. Part of me at the end felt absolutely miserable. For the rest, exhilaration; superb artistry brings its own joys.”
- More info 18 Sep 18 'A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory' Wigmore Hall Opera Today“…Bostridge has been studying and performing Schubert’s cycle of 24 settings of poems by Wilhelm Müller, which the composer told his friends had ‘cost me more effort than any of my other songs’, for more than 30 years. In more than 100 performances, he has been partnered by many different pianists, sung the work in venues both intimate and vast, made a film of the cycle (directed by David Alden, in 1994), and taken it onto the stage in performances of Hans Zender’s ’composed interpretation’ of Winterreise (1993), complemented by Netia Jones’s video designs, The Dark Mirror .
It is surely a work that Bostridge has ‘lived’, and certainly which he re-lives, physically, psychologically, emotionally, with every fresh performance. And, ‘fresh’ is an apt word, for while Bostridge’s vocal and expressive ‘identity’ is distinctive and striking, his performances of Winterreise traverse a wide emotional spectrum which embraces existential despair, self-lacerating irony, gentle wistfulness and wild delusion with varying degrees of emphasis. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard Bostridge perform Winterreise. Certainly, I remember, as a student, attending his first solo recital at Wigmore Hall in February 1995, and I have enjoyed countless lieder recitals by the tenor in the subsequent 23 years. Returning to the Hall last night to hear him sing Winterreise once again, partnered by Thomas Adès, I reflected that I too might stand accused of being afflicted by the mesmeric potency of this music and voice.
This performance of Winterreise was a remarkable symbiosis of the familiar and the revelatory. And, the subtle, pining beauties that Adès coaxed from the piano part played no small part in creating a journey which ventured at times into deeply introspective terrain, but which was always richly imaginative. I have heard Adès perform Winterreise with Bostridge several times, writing reviews of their performances at the Barbican Hall in 2015 and, the previous year, at the Aldeburgh Festival in Snape Maltings . Perhaps the expressive diversities and differences between those two performances, just six months apart, should have prepared me for the invention and spontaneity of this recital at Wigmore Hall. It was an enactment of human desolation which was strange, terrifying and captivating in equal measure, and which held me spellbound.
I don’t think I’ve attended a performance of Winterreise in which I have been so aware of the pianist’s presence – participating in, contributing to, depicting, inciting, reflecting on the wanderer’s psycho-physical journey. I noted, of the duo’s Barbican Hall performance, that ‘the generally restrained dynamics, particularly from Adès, asked us to listen with discernment to the gestural minutiae’, and in the intimacy of Wigmore Hall Adès dared to retreat still further, playing with an astonishingly delicate touch, shaping every utterance with exquisite suppleness.
The wanderer did not so much as step out with a purposeful tread in ‘Gute Nachte’ as float, carried by dreams and memories through the bleak iciness to which he seemed insensible. The piano’s accents were but tender emphases, as if the traveller’s foot had sunk into soft snow, and Adès’s sweet pianissimo faded still further in the second stanza as darkness enveloped the world. Bostridge was at one with this ethereal landscape, his whispered ‘Gute Nacht’ a farewell not just to his beloved, but also to recognisable realities. But, in ‘Die Wetterfahne’ the traveller’s unpredictability immediately revealed itself in the flash of fire with which Bostridge scorned the weather-vane, ‘Da dacht’ ich schon in meinem Wahner,/ Sie pfiff’ den armen Flüchtling aus’ (In my folly I thought it mocked the wretched fugitive). There was a terrible, unhinged quality to the anger.
In song after song, Adès surprised me with the emotive suggestiveness of the slightest of gestures. The pinpoint delicacy of the frozen tears which fall unnoticed in ‘Gefrorne Tränen’ conjured a painful innocence when the traveller realises that he has been weeping; and here, the darkness of Bostridge’s confused low murmuring, ‘Ei Tränen, meine Tränen’, was shocking, all the more so in the light of the deceptive lyricism of the final stanza. This warmth, though, was immediately numbed by the rapid curtailment of the piano’s brief swellings in the introduction to ‘Erstarrung’, and Bostridge’s oscillation between heated avowals and insubstantial musings. The fourth stanza of this song perfectly exemplified Adès’s engagement with the poet-narrator’s journey, the quiet, even circling of the right-hand being underpinned by a sharply defined bass line in which a triplet figure came to the fore, as if literally pushing the wanderer onwards.
But, despite the compelling impetus a pause did come, in a strange vision of the linden-tree which seemed to carry Bostridge away from the present, his voice becoming blanched and eerie as the dangerous rustling branches beseeched, ‘Komm her zu mir, Geselle, Hier findst du Ruh’!’ (Come to me, my friend, here you shall find rest!). The arrival of the cold wind woke us all from such mysteries, and as Bostridge declared, ‘Ich wendete mich nicht’ (I did not look back), the piano seemed almost to disappear. From my seat in the Hall, I could appreciate how closely Adès watched, followed, responded to Bostridge in ‘Wasserflut’ (Flood), in which the tenor emphasised the traveller’s instability and volatility, through startling tonal contrasts. And, again, there was that telling detail from Adès: in the third stanza he seemed to emphasise the difference between the piano’s dotted rhythm and the singer’s triplets (a discrepancy which has been subject to much, unresolved critical debate), lagging behind the vocal line and sharpening the poignancy of the traveller’s address to the snow, ‘Folge nach nur meinen Tränen,/ Nimmt dich bald das Bächlein auf’ (You’ve only to follow my tears and the stream will bear you away).
The languor of some songs created a heavy, wretched woefulness, as when the wanderer confronts the motionless, ice-crusted stream in ‘Auf dem Flusse’ (On the river), and here the indignation of Bostridge’s rhetorical outburst – as the poet-narrator imagines that beneath the stillness a torrent rages, like that in his own heart – was complemented by the tautness of the piano bass trills, the left hand being somehow both melodious and discomforting. The piano emerged slyly from the shadows at the start of ‘Irrlicht’ (Will-o’-the-wisp), and though the poet-speaker declares himself calm, as he makes his way down the dry bed of the mountain stream, there was fear in the rising vocal portamenti of the last stanza and in the piano’s final whispered taunt.
In contrast, I scribbled the word ‘deranged’ in my programme alongside the text of ‘Rückblick’ (A backward glance), and I think that says it all: this traveller seemed to have become detached from the real, and the corporeal, existing ‘somewhere else’ in a world of his own tortured imaginings. In ‘Rast’ (Rest) the juxtaposition of Bostridge’s light head-voice, as he drove on without rest through the storm, and the dense piano left-hand chords deepened this sense of ‘lostness’ still further, and the final pang of anguish which afflicts the traveller’s heart was viciously tense. By ‘Frülingstraum’ (Dream of Spring), both pianist and singer had submitted to an almost psychotic unsoundness, deviating alarmingly between frenzy, desolation and dreaminess. The slowing at the end of this song, which emphasised the clarity of the low piano bass line, seemed to prepare for the weary weight and torpor of ‘Einsamkeit’ (Loneliness); here, single words, ‘Einsam’, ‘Leben’, seemed almost detached from any semantic context, and Bostridge’s voice was bleached of all colour in the wanderer’s concluding reflection on a past when he was not so wretched.
The arrival of the mail-coach brought no promise or joy, Adès’s poundings ringing with indifference: ‘Die Post bringt keinen Brief für dich’ (There will be no letter for you). There was a further pained paring of emotional connectedness in the unisons of ‘Der greise Kopf’ (The hoary head), in the cold simplicity of the piano’s arpeggio-triplets in the prelude to ‘Die Krahe’ (The crow) – as even as a child’s music-box – and in Bostridge’s fragmented address to the ‘wunderliches Tier’, strange creature, whose overhead circling casts a perturbing shade. At the close of the song, Bostridge turned his back on the audience, gazing into the belly of the piano, lost in terrifying absurdity and unease.
It didn’t seem possible that we could descend any further into existential desolation, but we did, and by the time we had travelled from impetuous last hopes (‘Letzte Hoffnung’), through the taunting barking of dogs and rattling of chains in the village (‘Im Dorfe’) and into pure delusion (‘Täuschung’) what was most chilling was the way the supreme control executed by singer and pianist served a seemingly irredeemable irrationality. The proverbial hopelessness of trying to argue with a madman was palpable.
And so it seemed oddly but wonderfully ‘wrong’ that we could admire Adès’s lovely voice-leading in ‘Der Wegweiser’, especially as the sign-post led us only to the essence of human isolation: the slowing, fading declaration of acceptance that the wanderer must travel the one road from which no man has ever returned (‘Eine Strasse muss ich gehen,/ Die noch Keiner ging zurück’). And, that Bostridge, in ‘Das Wirtshaus’ (The inn), could colour so tenderly the traveller’s acknowledgement that the graveyard is to be his place of rest. Adès did not conjure defiance at the start of ‘Mut!’ (Courage!) so much as half-hearted self-encouragement, though there was fierce anger in the final two chords, which almost whipped us with their bitter accents.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Bostridge sing ‘Die Nebensonnen’ more beautifully, the eloquent decorations of Adès’s introductory phrase inspiring a lyrical gentility which made nihilist submission to darkness and death seem almost consoling. But, should we have been tempted by apparent intimations of solace, Adès revealed our foolishness at the start of ‘Der Leiermann’: the left hand’s upward acciaccatura, which resolves to form the bare fifth of the hurdy-gurdy man’s dirge, here crunched onto the beat, an aggressive and disturbing intrusion – and this was, for once, no pianissimo, but a forceful, sustained expression of contempt and pain. The clanging dissonance of these first two bars, though not stated again, lingered and cast an acerbic shadow over the song, draining the traveller of a life-pulse, even as he marvelled at the organ-grinder’s steadfastness – ‘Dreht, und seine Leier/Steht ihm nimmer still.’ (He turns the handle, his hurdy-gurdy’s never still). The silence – both relief and horror – which engulfed the traveller was absolute.”
- More info 17 Sep 18 Winterreise with Thomas Adès CBE Wigmore Hall Classical Source
“The Ian Bostridge/Thomas Adès duo has sustained both artists well into two decades, from their impetuous thirties into more considered fifties. Or so you might think. I clearly recall a recital they gave at Aldeburgh in 2004 that was so unguarded, intense and bruising, you wondered how they or the audience recovered, and it’s this approach that defined their hold on Schubert’s and Wilhelm Müller’s Winter Journey at Wigmore Hall, their survey detailed in twenty-four songs about the wretched lover annihilated by love.
Winterreise, in various manifestations, is central to Bostridge, and his performances with Adès in particular have played fast and loose with trauma and psychosis. This time round, Adès’s role at the piano was generally more measured yet remained a triumph of imagination, a compelling example of one composer-pianist completely getting under the skin of another, and in the process reconfirming this 190-year-old song-cycle as shockingly modern.
Bostridge unashamedly went for the jugular. For those who hang on the seemingly age-proof depth and clarity at the centre of his voice, the distortions and deliberate ugliness would have come as a shock, although there was no sparing the vocal beauty when it mattered. Moreover, anyone hoping to be on the receiving end of an arc of clearly plotted emotional disintegration might have been caught short by the explicit and unpredictable vagaries and misery of his account. This was the performance’s strength, of course – anyone who has suffered mental illness, isolation and the strange, detached appraisal of scrambled identity might easily have perceived this Winterreise as a mirror to their experience. Whether they were grateful is another matter.
Their neutral way into ‘Gute Nacht’ incidentally raised the possibility of a third-person narrative, but this was deftly destabilised by Adès’s voice-leading in the piano part then completely negated by some alarm-signalling vocal emphases in the song’s last verse. ‘Gefrorne Tränen’ introduced a doppelgänger effect when Bostridge sunk into a mock-bass voice, with mania not far behind in his slippery elision of words in ‘Erstarrung’. Any consolation in ‘Der Lindenbaum’ was trashed by Bostridge adopting a faux-cabaret intimacy, and overall his performance was very mobile, at times histrionic, but against that you had to contend with the beauty and stillness of ‘Wasserflut’, in which the quality of Bostridge’s voice came into its own. If one song went to the heart of pathos, then the next would be like an encounter with a dodgy ancient mariner.
Adès was marvellous in the songs that have a mere scaffold of a piano part, and he was equally canny in those with an obsessive rhythmic component, such as the tinkling, music-box waltz that threads ironically through ‘Frühlingstraum’. If there was a plan, it gathered shape in a blacker-than-black ‘Einsamkeit’ that, less successfully, cast its shadow over a very unjaunty ‘Die Post’.
The shadows gathered more strongly in a superbly aimless and heartless account of ‘Die Krähe’, then falling into an expressionist ‘Letzte Hoffnung’ that Schoenberg would have appreciated. Adès pushed the traveller ever closer to the edge with the hallucinatory precision of ‘Täuschung’, and Bostridge abandoned hope in a bleak and unbelievably quiet ‘Der Wegweiser’, a pall of isolation that not even the resolution of ‘Mut’ could disturb. By the last verse of ‘Der Leiermann’, Bostridge at his most remote, Adès rigidly mechanical, you were in no doubt that lover and wunderlicher Alter had merged into one. Bostridge was brutal, intimate, tender and confiding, and any mannerisms justified by the unsparing honesty of this chilliest of Winterreisen.”
- More info 09 Jun 18 'Immer ganz Bostridge und ganz Schubert' Palais im Grosser Garten Dresden: Winterreise Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten
“Actually, it was always the same: when British tenor Ian Bostridge devotes himself to song singing, he fascinates and polarises equally. You have to get involved in his very individual, extremely ingenious argument with Schubert and especially with “Winterreise”. There are many different things than you are used to. Even those who hear Bostridge and his Schubert interpretations again and again, are usually surprised by other creative accents, dynamic variants, expressive refinements. Bostridge “plays” with timbres, is sometimes quite free in the tempo. But his approach always shows deep Schubert love and great reverence for his work, but also from intellectual penetration to the last phrase – always quite Bostridge and all Schubert. All of this applies equally to his recital during the Dresden Music Festival in the Palais Großer Garten.
Ian Bostridge’s tenor is still slim, rich in overtones, flexible without end. The fact that the voice has become darker and fuller over the years does only well for his presentation. With all his strength and charisma (both musically and spiritually) he immersed himself in the fateful journey, often meticulously (but not always) in the details, effectively tastful crescendi, as confident in piano as in conjuring large, dramatic bows.
Bostridge took it very carefully with the cycle’s inherent emotions. The tension at the end of the “Erstarrung” caught on, the “Lindenbaum” seemed anything but homely, but rather pale and scary. The contrast between a blissful dream and a bitter awakening, as here in this “Frühlingstraum”, can rarely be experienced so straightforward and direct. Sometimes Bostridge practised sarcasm (“Die Post”), exhaustion (“Einsamkeit”, “Wirtshaus”) was virtually tangible. He listened to the sound of rage, beguiled with beautiful singing, but could also bark (“Im Dorfe”) and sound “funny” in such a way that the blood froze (“Mut”).
For twenty-five years, Ian Bostridge and his pianist Julius Drake have formed a “dream team” (to use their own description). And, of course, both of them know after so long a time, where the expressed and the more imaginary, creative as well as musical intentions of the other lie. Drake was a particularly flexible partner to hear – gripping, with a sense for multi-layered timbres, but also soft and driving forward accents. It fit together, as you could not have imagined otherwise.
The last song “Der Leiermann” ends in a void, which also seized the listeners and led to great silence before applause broke out. In the conversation afterwards Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake were very impressed by the audience and their reactions. And to a “Winterreise”-weaned Dresden audience (you have to think back for a very long time, to remember a big “Winterreise”) that means something.”
- More info 07 Jun 18 'Zwischen Komödiantik & Mythos' Recital: Musikverein with Julius Drake Kronen Zeitung
“When he published his Schubert book “Winterreise” in 2015, his audience was fascinated. Suddenly we saw and heard many new things in Schubert’s songs: Ian Bostridge, sensitive opera performer of Britten’s plays, Monteverdi’s, Mozart’s songs, had completely different, sometimes unsettling, ways.
At the Musikverein Festival he sang songs by Hugo Wolf. A program designed with much knowledge and taste, which – as always – was accompanied by Julius Drake on the grand piano with a fine understanding of Bostridge’s style of interpretation:
For Bostridge, Wolf’s songs after Heine, Goethe and Mörike are to be understood primarily from the language and its melody, which he analyzes with precision and finely nuanced expression in these situations. At the same time, he brings them to light with theatrical passion. How he gives mythical power to the “limits of humanity” was fascinating. Too bad he didn’t try “Weylas Orplid-Gesang”.
Comedy – as in “Frech und Froh”, in the “Der Tambour” or in the “Abschied” -, love, romantic moods he lets slip in floating ease. And in “Gebet” he finds touching simplicity. In the encores he sang the same texts in settings of Schubert, Brahms, Schumann.”
- More info 25 Apr 18 ARTICLE 'The life-changing impact of Schubert's songs' BBC Music Magazine
Schubert song changed my life. If I hadn’t heard a recording of Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore performing his Erlkönig in about 1979, I would never have become a singer. Schubert kept me interested in singing; he turned a shy academic child into a teenager and then an adult who wanted to perform on stage and ended up working in the theatre.
There’s something that might seem a little paradoxical about this. None of the greatest of the great Lieder composers (Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf) were successful opera composers. Schubert’s efforts were thwarted by Viennese cultural politics, which denied him the practical opportunities operatic composers need in order to develop. Alfonso und Estrella and Fierrabrasare revived from time to time, but they have never been enthusiastically received into the repertoire, despite being full of wonderful tunes.
Schubert is a song composer of undoubted dramatic power. The form of the Lied can be deeply interior, which may be what draws shy teenagers towards it. However, once hooked, there is plenty of grand gesture to be found. My experience of singing Schubert has been a process of discovering the imaginative theatre which lies at the core of his song-world. Growing up as a singer is partly a process of realising that drama and theatricality do not necessarily pull in a different direction from the authenticity of expression which the Lied demands.
I’ve made more solo recordings of Schubert than anything else since Die schöne Müllerin with Graham Johnson in 1996, as part of his mammoth Schubert Lied edition for Hyperion. Two albums of songs with Julius Drake; a double album with Leif Ove Andsnes; and the three cycles with Mitsuko Uchida, Lief Ove Andsnes and Antonio Pappano. I’m now releasing the fourth of a series of four Schubert CDs for Wigmore Live, all of them with Julius Drake. It’s an ending in all sorts of ways.
These four concerts at the Wigmore were repeats of programmes I had compiled over the past twenty years, and performed all over the place with Julius. They were part of a process of learning how to build a programme; and one reason for re-recording new versions of songs was to show the songs in the setting of a programme. For me, a programme is a dramatic and emotional arc, mediated by words and music. Never a literal narrative, and with connections between the songs that are metaphorical and poetic on the one hand, and yet equally musico-dramatic. Not a matter of tight thematic connections or harmonic structures, but of juxtaposition, of alternations of melting transition and rude shock. The model, inevitably, is Schubert’s own Winterreise.
And so, in these four discs you have a record of a twenty-year journey with Schubert. As live recordings they have a certain rawness, very different from the perfectionism which one tries to realise in the studio. My producer for EMI, John Fraser, always talked about stringing pearls together in the studio. These recordings are more like audio snapshots of how it felt on one night, with one particular audience and with all the business of the drama of the Lied present (through the sound) but at the same time absent (these are only sound recordings). I remain convinced that it’s a worthwhile exercise. You might think that a film would be a better record of an acted performance; but strangely, for me at least, the filmed Lieder recital loses an atmosphere which a recording can, mysteriously retain.
- More info 08 Feb 18 'British Tenor Ian Bostridge Bringing Sounds Of Franz Schubert To Union' Saratoga Living Magazine
“Few vocalists hold the recital stage like British tenor Ian Bostridge, who brings his operatic chops to Union College’s Memorial Chapel on Feb. 10.
It has everything to do with how he conveys the meaning of the words he sings and what he does with his voice.
“You must grab people’s attention,” Bostridge told saratoga living last December from London. “You must engage them. You need to communicate. The voice is the servant of the interpretation,” he explained. “There’s too much pressure on having a beautiful voice and to sing loudly. Having a beautiful voice is not interesting to me. After two minutes it becomes boring. If a singer is doing a song cycle of 50 minutes, the listener’s ear adjusts to the voice, and they take it for granted. But beauty and ugliness captures their attention.”
Bostridge loves to sing songs that take his audience on an emotional journey. He works with texts that allow him to sing not just pretty tones, but also grunts, whispers, and other “weird colors,” as he puts it. Bostridge performs in a disarmingly casual way as he leans against the piano or walks about the stage to tell the song’s story.
Although he sings lieder by Mahler, Brahms, Wolf, Schumann, and Beethoven, his favorite material comes from the pen of Franz Schubert. “[Schubert] has a huge variety, and at his peak, the songs are incredibly powerful,” Bostridge said. Schubert (1797-1828) not only wrote symphonies, string quartets, chamber music, and piano works; but he also turned out more than 600 songs. “It’s quite a lot,” Bostridge told us with a laugh. “And they’re all pretty great. I’ve sung only about 200 of them and explored another 250. Some are not well known and they all vary in intensity.”
Schubert set his songs to the texts of almost 100 poets, particularly Goethe and Wilhelm Müller. Out of the 22 Schubert songs Bostridge will perform is the famed “Erlkonig” (“The Erl King”), which is set to a Goethe poem; and he’s opening with a trio of songs set to poetry. These include: Matthaus Kazimir von Colin’s “Wehmut” (“Melancholy”); “Der Zwerg” (“The Dwarf”), which in Bostridge’s opinion, is “not a good poem but Schubert turned it into a great song”; and “Nacht und Traume” (“Night and Dreams”).
Presenting these three songs together, Bostridge said, enables him to create an atmosphere, which sets the stage for what comes afterwards. “That’s part of why I’m drawn to Schubert again and again,” he said. “He was the first great lieder writer and he was writing for the new piano, which had become a more powerful instrument. It makes the partnership between the voice and piano more equal … almost symphonic. And he was inventing new styles and he was the first to create cycles. ‘Winterreise’ (‘Winter Journey’), based on Müller’s poems, is the greatest cycle in classical music.”
Performing a three-song cycle has become something of an obsession for Bostridge, who tours with the concept regularly—four of the six concerts he’s performing in February on his North American tour feature this cycle. He even wrote a book detailing how he came to interpret each of the cycle’s 24 songs in Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession. Bostridge sang the cycle in 2015 at Union with accompanist Wenwen Du, whom he recently worked with in California. He’s spent almost 30 years performing this work.
For the Union concert, Bostridge will be joined by his longtime pianist Julius Drake, who was the accompanist for their recent album Songs by Schubert, Vol. 3. “He’s great. He has the instinct as to how we phrase and we trust each other,” Bostridge said of his accompanist. “But I also try to work with younger people. They sometimes provide inspiration with new colors.”
- More info 02 Nov 17 BERLIOZ: 'Les Nuits d'Ete' Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot Benaroya Hall, Seattle
“The program’s opener on Thursday evening, Berlioz’s song cycle “Les nuits d’éte,” featured the great English tenor Ian Bostridge, now 52 and at the top of his form: easy high notes, warm tone quality and beautiful expression.
A familiar figure to lieder fans everywhere, Bostridge may be a Schubert expert (he has written an acclaimed book on Schubert’s “Winterreise”), but he is stylistically right on target for Berlioz’s lyrical and very French song cycle about love won and lost. Bostridge uses vibrato as an expressive device, not as a constant, and he’s a very active performer with a wide range. He sang the entire half-hour song cycle from memory and in clear, excellent French, an impressive feat in its own right.”
Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times, 3 November 2017
“English tenor Ian Bostridge made his debut here with the songs. The voice is just right for them, dramatic, with the very wide but even range necessary here. His throat is open, the sound easy and clear and phrases shaped with artistry”
Philippa Kiraly, The Sun Break, 7 November 2017
- More info 12 Aug 17 ZENDER: 'Winterreise' Lincoln Center, New York
“Mr. Bostridge’s performance on Sunday afternoon was superb: vocally alluring for the most part, brutal when Mr. Zender’s interpretation demanded it. (“Let stray dogs howl in front of their master’s house!”) His voice has always been remarkable for its clarity, purity and pliancy, and it remains in good estate. His gaunt physique and a slight stiffness of manner worked only to his advantage in creating this haunting portrayal”
James R. Oestreich, New York Times, 14 Augut 2017
- More info 09 Jul 17 SCHUBERT Wigmore Hall, London
“Ian Bostridge’s recital ranged across lesser-known areas of Schubert’s solo songs. A first half focusing on the teenage years was remarkable. Who knew the attractive “Der Geistertanz”, written when he was 17, or “Stimme der Liebe”, with its remarkably wayward harmonies? A second half with four Hymns to poems by Novalis at its centre was hardly less eye-opening. … With Graham Johnson on inspiring form at the piano, every song seemed to venture into pastures new.”
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 10 July 2017
- More info 27 Apr 17 BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra City Halls, Glasgow
“a beautifully musical performance of a work that well-suits his singular voice.”
Keith Bruce, The Herald, 30 April 2017
“The Britten coupled the meltingly accurate horn playing of Christopher Parkes with the incomparable Britten-friendly tenor voice of Ian Bostridge, whose animated delivery explored fascinating new perspectives, among them a disturbing, super-heated “This ae nighte”.”
Ken Walton, The Scotsman, 29 April 2017
- More info 08 Feb 17 INTERVIEW Ian Bostridge is following the lieder with Schubert The Australian
Ian Bostridge talks to Matthew Westwood ahead of performances of Zender’s Winterreise at the Perth Festival.
Matthew Westwood, The Australian, 8 February 2017
- More info 14 Nov 16 Recital: Shakespeare Songs Wigmore Hall, London
“The tenor presided over a seamless exchange between music and drama”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, 15 November 2016
- More info 27 Oct 16 INTERVIEW Boston Globe on 'Winterreise'
Ian Bostridge talks to Zoë Madonna of the Boston Globe about ‘Winterreise’ ahead of his recital at Jordan Hall.
Zoë Madonna, Boston Globe, 27 October 2016
- More info 22 Oct 16 SCHUBERT: 'Winterreise' Thomas Adès Carnegie Hall, New York
“But the traversal by Mr. Bostridge and Mr. Adès … delivered the emotional sucker punch that Schubert somehow manages to make so cathartic. … Mr. Bostridge created starkly delineated voices for the conversations that mostly take place in the narrator’s lovesick and unbalanced mind.”
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, 24 October 2016
“Ideally the audience is so moved that the only appropriate response is silence – which is exactly what happened here. Then, finally, the applause started, gradually building up and eventually giving Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès a rousing ovation, the artists looking utterly spent. They had not only performed Schubert’s song-cycle, they had lived it. … Bostridge’s voice is uncannily even throughout the registers, from baritonal low notes (such as in the middle section of ‘Gefrorne Tränen’) to a floated top, and he was using every means of expression conceivable – conveying the drama of ‘Rückblick’ and the repulsiveness of ‘Die Krähe’, but also the nostalgia of ‘Der Lindenbaum’, and ultimately the desolation of ‘Der Leiermann’. … This was a musical experience at its best.”
Elizabeth Barnette, Classical Source, 26 October 2016
- More info 16 Sep 16 BRITTEN: 'The Turn of the Screw' Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Bravissimi tutti gli interpreti…Ian Bostridge riesce a diffondere una cupa e angosciante aura di mistero con la sua sola presenza, il personaggio di Peter Quint gli va a pennello.
Il Giornale della musica /Stefano Jacini
Postbarocchi dello spettro piu demoniaco, Quint, amaramente ricreato da Ian Bostridge, … sembrano indirizzati a gelare lo stomaco di chi ascolta piu che alle orcchie.
La Repubblica/ Angelo Foletto
Ian Bostridge, a regular recitalist here in recent year, makes his operatic debut with music he has made his own.
The Financial Times/ James Imam
- More info 31 Aug 16 CD Shakespeare Songs Ian Bostridge, Antonio Pappano, Warner Classics
“This is worth having for the first track alone: an impeccable account of Finzi’s Come Away, Death, with Ian Bostridge blending melancholy and nonchalance, Antonio Pappano accompanying with tender reticence. Bostridge, who names Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ades’s The Tempest as milestones, squeezes every nuance of meaning from these Shakespeare settings. The recital is well constructed: Elizabethan lute songs (with the incomparable Elizabeth Kenny) lead to Schubert’s An Silvia (sung in English) and on to Quilter, Gurney and Warlock. Three Korngold songs precede sharply contrasting settings of Fancie, by Poulenc and Britten. Tippett’s Songs for Ariel and three songs for Stravinsky complete this richly varied homage.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 28 August 2016
“As anniversary tributes go, this is a good one. With the help of lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and a starry roster of solo instrumentalists, Bostridge roams not only over four centuries of repertoire (from Byrd and Morley to Tippett) but also right across the music map, exploring responses to Shakespeare by Haydn, Schubert, Korngold, Poulenc and Stravinsky as well as home-grown composers. … Bostridge’s sensitivity to text and ability to spin a line right through even the densest of consonant clusters makes for a compelling collection”
Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone, October 2016
“Ian Bostridge has compiled a nicely varied programme for his Shakespeare tribute.”
Richard Fariman, Financial Times, 2 September 2016
“Two decades after Bostridge shot to international prominence with his recording of Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, accompanied by Graham Johnson for the Hyperion Schubert series, his lovely tenor retains its youthful beauty and purity of emission. The lower tones sound rather conventionally masculine, but as soon as he begins to ascend—roughly 85% of all the notes he sings in this recital—the tone is wonderful. It is hard not to fall in love with the sound of Bostridge’s voice, especially when, as in the opening selection, Finzi’s “Come away, come away death,” he sounds so fragile and innocent. … The intelligence, too, is there in spades.”
Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile, 24 December 2016
- More info 21 May 16 SCHUBERT Recital with Wenwen Du Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
“Bostridge could harness both dramatic and musical skills to enable his perceptive interpretations of Schubert to introduce the audience to those less-familiar poets and the dramatic qualities of their texts.”
San Francisco Examiner, 22 May 2016
- More info 12 May 16 ZENDER: 'Winterreise' Britten Sinfonia Barbican Centre, London
“Bostridge, in excellent voice and acting with rare subtlety, can have done nothing better than this”
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraphy 13 May 2016
“So strong is Schubert’s music, so direct is Müller’s verse and so finely intelligent is Bostridge’s singing that all peril is overcome and art gains.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 15 May 2016
“At the centre of it, too, is Bostridge’s impeccably coloured performance, his articulation of every morsel of the text utterly lucid, even when, in Zender’s version, it has to be spoken or delivered as Sprechgesang. His concept of what the cycle encompasses is projected as clearly as it always is.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 13 May 2016
“And what of that wanderer? This is where tenor Ian Bostridge steps in, reprising a role he has sung for 30 years. Costumed like the master of ceremonies from Cabaret, he appears both on screen and in the flesh. At one point he stares a younger version of himself in the eye; at another he sprawls lifelessly in the snow. It’s elegant, inventive, a haunting take on alienation, and Jones stokes rather than smothers our imagination.
As does Bostridge himself, who brings more stillness and poise to his performance than usual. It pays off particularly in the quiet resignation of “Letzte Hoffnung” and in the glassy calm of “Der Lindenbaum”, which, in Zender’s interpretation, constantly threatens to shatter. When combined with the accordion-soaked growls of the Britten Sinfonia under Baldur Brönnimann, the effect is rarely less than chilling.”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, 15th May 2016
- More info 12 May 16 ARTICLE Zender's Winterreise Ian Bostridge explains why he agreed to approach a work he knows so intimately through the dark mirror of Hans Zender’s ‘composed interpretation’
- More info 14 Oct 15 TELEMANN/HANDEL Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Steven Devine St John's Smith Square
“Tenor Ian Bostridge was the pillar of the whole programme. The cerebral singer has a distinctive technique which he always puts to interpretative use. This was particularly marked in the by turn confiding and excited tone of Telemann’s cantata Dass mein Erlöser lebt, with which he opened, and, supremely, in Handel’s Scherza infida from Ariodante, not to mention the Silete Venti motet after the interval. In the former, Bostridge’s range of desolate remorse, against a caressing violin accompaniment, was very special. But it was the motet, with its prodigious range of vocal demands and expressive opportunities, and Bostridge now thoroughly warmed up vocally, that was the high point.”
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 15 October 2015
- More info 08 Oct 15 BRITTEN Recital with Seven Isserlis and Julius Drake Wigmore Hall, London
“Britten’s realisations of Bach’s Five Spiritual Songs, which mostly speak of approaching death … certainly suited Bostridge’s ascetic approach. His was a beautifully pared-down performance, giving us choirboy tonal purity and pianissimi that, in “Liebster Herr Jesu” especially, raised goosebumps. Most importantly, it was a performance that allowed the words’ sentiments to speak for themselves.”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, 9 October 2015
“This was character singing of a high order, not consoling in the least but uncomfortably persuasive.”
Nick Kimberley, Evening Standard, 8 October 2015
- More info 29 Sep 15 MONTEVERDI: 'Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria' Academy of Ancient Music Barbican Centre, London
“Ian Bostridge’s Ulisse may not quite be Homer’s wily wanderer, but there’s a rangy urgency about both his physicality and vocal delivery that brings real menace to the king-in-disguise. Deploying everything from a bladed snarl to mezza voce croon, his hero is war-broken and complicated, but redeemed in Monteverdi’s exquisite final duet – a flowering of melody after unyielding recitative.”
Alexandra Coughlan, The Arts Desk, 30 September 2015
“It was usually in the scenes that involved Ian Bostridge’s Ulysses that things sparked into life. Bostridge’s voice seems to acquire more richness and tonal range, especially in the lower registers, with every challenge he takes on, and he used its baritonal qualities to great effect here, bringing expressive variety to the free-flowing recitative that few others in the cast could match”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 30 September 2015
“Amidst the large ensemble cast, the best performance of the night came from Ian Bostridge as Ulisse. Besides his powerful voice, which actually felt light because it was so expansive, he provided an intriguing portrayal of a hero who, despite never actually shying away from danger, could not help but to have grown weary from all of the setbacks he had faced.”
Sam Smith, Music OMH, 29 September 2015
- More info 25 Aug 15 CD: BRAHMS Complete Songs, vol. 6 Graham Johnson, piano
“The British tenor’s vocal personality divides his listeners, but his commitment to German art song can’t be challenged. Brahmsians will want this volume of Graham Johnson’s continuing series, not least for his explanatory notes, which provide detailed information on individual songs. Bostridge chooses to perform rarities: the complete Op 32, which contains gems beyond the familiar Wie rafft ich mich and Wie bist du, meine Königin; and three of the late Four Songs, Op 96. He sings the Minnelied, Op 71, No 5, with rapt intensity.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 6 September 2015
“In his complete lieder surveys for the Hyperion label, one of Graham Johnson’s great talents has been matching songs to singer, building recital recordings that work on their own and also suit the demands of the whole. Ian Bostridge’s reflective, often pained way with words would not suit all of Brahms’s songs, but … this is one of the tenor’s finest releases. Take the Opus 85 landscapes, the Heine settings “Sommerabend” and “Mondenschein,” which shimmer with detail, or the last of the Opus 32 “Lieder und Gesänge,” “Wie bist du, meine Königin” — a master class of descriptive subtlety from singer and pianist alike.”
David Allen, New York Times, 9 September 2015
- More info 30 Jun 15 SCHUMANN Recital with Sebastian Wybrew The Mansion House, London
“Bostridge delivered everything from memory, and it was a tribute to his immaculate German diction that even in the rather boomy, unfocused acoustic of the Mansion House he was able to make so many of the words clear.
The Op 39 Liederkreis was inevitably the highlight; the way in which Bostridge heightened the gothic atmosphere of Auf einer Burg, using a bleached, sprechgesang-like approach and digging a real rasp out of the lowest registers of his voice, was very special lieder singing.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 1 July 2015
“This duo provided thrilling moments of spontaneity and inspiration”
“A characteristic Bostridge sound is the single-note crescendo, gradually acquiring intensity and penetration. It’s a wonderfully plangent effect and he deployed it frequently in all three collections heard”
Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 1 July 2015
- More info 15 Jun 15 RECITAL Melbourne Recital Centre
“Tenor Ian Bostridge’s storytelling captivates at Melbourne Recital Centre”
“The many diverse colours of Bostridge’s beautiful tenor voice were employed to bring these narratives to life. Bostridge does more than just sing these songs, he delivers an experience. Moving constantly around the stage, he takes the audience into a spellbinding world of restless emotions.”
Martin Duffy, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2015
- More info 11 Jun 15 BRITTEN: 'War Requiem' Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Hamer Hall, Melbourne
“Each soloist brought a unique perspective on the work; the booming voice of Pavlovskaya countering the captivating, vibrant tones of Bostridge, and Henschel offering a heartfelt, yet straightforward interpretation.”
Joel Carnegie, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2015
“Interspersed in the Latin mass Owen’s words, sung supremely in turns by German bass-baritone Dietrich Henschel and English tenor Ian Bostridge, mixed the ideas of glory and sacrifice with slaughter, death and the idiocy of command.”
Andrea Gillum, ArtsHub, 16 June 2015
- More info 21 Apr 15 Songs of World War I Recital tour of North America
Park Avenue Armory, New York: 17 April 2015
“…at the Park Avenue Armory, war’s echoes resounded again, in a devastating concert by Ian Bostridge and his superb pianist, Wenwen Du.”
David Allen, The New York Times, 19 April 2015
Hertz Concert Hall, Berkeley: 12 April 2015
“But Bostridge … leapt into his “Great War” project and held nothing back. From the first measures of three songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn that opened the program — all of them performed at the brink of curdled, nihilistic abandon — a darkly coruscating afternoon unfolded.”
Steven Winn, San Francisco Classical Voice, 13 April 2015
Hertz Concert Hall, Berkeley: 12 April 2015
“In each composer’s music, Bostridge proved an ideal interpreter. The tenro remains an ageless presence, and his austere, pure-toned vocalism lent the songs an almost spectral intensity.”
Georgia Rowe, Musical America, 14th April 2015
Park Avenue Armory: 17 April 2015
“Bostridge has a dramatic manner that is driven by his deep intelligence and learning. He sings with such clarity and assurance about the subject that one need not know the language nor refer to the text to understand his meaning. His voice was superb—the warm penumbra he had when younger is gone, but that is a gain, as out of it has come polished steel.”
George Grella, New York Classical Review, 18 April 2015
Vancouver Playhouse: 15 April 2015
“British tenor Ian Bostridge delivers complex, commanding Winterreise. Darker, more ironic, and consummately theatrical”
David Gordon, The Vancouver Sun, 16 April 2015
- More info 19 Apr 15 SCHUBERT: 'Winterreise' Recital tour of North America
Union College, Schenectady: 19 April 2015
“Bostridge brings beauty and terror to ‘Winterreise’. Despite tenor Ian Bostridge’s best efforts to keep his recitals from being all about singing, it’s obvious that he is still a very fine singer.”
Joseph Dalton, Times Union, 20 April 2015
Vancouver Playhouse: 15 April, 2015
“British tenor Ian Bostridge delivers complex, commanding Winterreise”
David Gordon, The Vancouver Sun, 16 April 2015
Union College, Schenectady: 19 April 2015
“Bostridge, who has sung this cycle for more than 25 years around the world, inhabited each song in an intense, focused and emotional way. Every note had meaning. His casual manner of leaning against the piano or walking about a bit made the songs like little stories. His voice was rich and resonant with a dark, almost baritone-like timbre. His lower range growled and rumbled, his top notes soared. His phrases were fluid and even, rising or falling depending on the dynamic he chose. Vibrato was used as a color. Schubert seemed to have laid his lines well, so taking a breath was an effortless task. Silence and pacing were used to allow a song’s shape to settle. Bostridge’s German was immaculate.”
Geraldine Freedman, Schenectady Daily Gazette, 22 April 2015
- More info 02 Apr 15 ARTICLE 'The Magic in Schubert's Songs' by Ian Bostridge
- More info 19 Mar 15 BRITTEN: Les Illuminations Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding Berwaldhallen, Stockholm
“To call yourself an amateur, as one of the world’s foremost lieder-singers, is modest in an almost parodically British way. But Ian Bostridge does, according to conductor Daniel Harding. The reason is that Bostridge does not have a formal music education. However, he is a trained historian, with a doctorate about witchcraft from Oxford University under his belt.
These dual roles were manifested vivaciously at Berwaldhallen yesterday evening. His confident, beautiful tenor and detailed articulation of Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations, created exactly the kind of desperate, or angry, invocation that characterizes this early work from 1939. Bostridge has, as he has shown in his subtle interpretations of Schubert, a rare ability to give body to the lyrics he sings, which he exhibited last night as well.
After the Radio Symphony Orchestra played Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, a work containing several musical illustrations of witchcraft (the music can be heard in the film The Shining among others), Bostridge held a talk about the French society’s view of witches during the eighteenth century, the time when the belief in witches and witchcraft slowly, but slower that one might think in this rational era, petered out. The Berlioz symphony only came to be a couple of decades after the French government had basically issued a statute hindering witchcraft prosecutions and convictions.
A world-class singer, who after a concert can present a sterling history of ideas, as a backdrop to what has just been performed, may not be unique, but certainly spellbinding.”
Claes Wahlin, Aftonbladet, 20 March 2015
- More info 12 Jan 15 SCHUBERT: Winterreise Recital with Thomas Adès Barbican Centre, London
“This was without doubt the most extraordinary, riveting, uncanny performance of Schubert’s great song-cycle Winterreise I have ever witnessed.”
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 13 January 2015
“.. for any artist the live re-creation of this psychologically dark masterpiece is the real challenge, and in this Barbican performance, in which Bostridge shared the platform with pianist Thomas Adès, the two offered something unusually detailed and concentrated. If sharp definition is generally a mark of Bostridge’s interpretations, then this work in particular suits him down to the ground.”
George Hall, The Guardian, 13 January 2015
“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.”
Michael Church, The Independent, 13 January 2015
- More info 05 Jan 15 SCHUBERT, LIZST, SCHUMANN Recital with Thomas Adès Teatro alla Scala, Milan
“His musicianship is outstanding. He has a myriad of ways of approaching and sustaining each note, and searches out and reveals every colour and nuance in his beautiful voice. He maximises the effect of the words: he caresses them, teases them and occasionally spits them out accompanied by a blue-eyed venomous stare. In doing so he even risks interrupting the vocal line, but nothing gets past him and he makes the most of everything the composer provides him with….
In his Schubert, Liszt and Schumann programme, culminating in the Dichterliebe, he was accompanied by Thomas Adès who gave an extraordinary symphonic rendering of each piece. Schubert, especially, shone anew with his warm and broad palette of colours. It is rare to hear such an intense collaboration between singer and pianist where a ‘solo’ recital is experienced as a duet for two instruments.”
Gramilano.com / 6 January 2015
“Bostridge è un grande cantante e un grande artista. Dimostra due verità spesso negate: la prima, che non esiste solo una tecnica vocale, ma molte; la seconda, che il canto è un mezzo espressivo, non un fine in sé. Questa voce ingrata si rivela camaleontica, si trasforma, aggredisce le parole e dà, a ognuna, un colore, un peso e un significato diversi. E poi anche per cantare essere musicista aiuta. Per esempio, è eccezionale il senso del ritmo e la capacità di variarlo nei Lieder strofici: ascoltare per credereUnd wüssten’s die Blumen di Schumann, un gioiello. Infine, la sensibilità. Molti di questi brani sono strazianti non per quel che dicono, ma per quel che fanno intuire. Ma qui tutto dipende dall’interprete: e allora perfino Das Fischermädchen diventa sottilmente inquietante, come se Schiele avesse ridipinto un quadretto Biedermeier, mentre tutta la Dichterleibe comunica un senso di lucida desolazione davvero insolito. Merito anche di Thomas Adès, che è forse il maggior operista del nostro tempo ma certamente un accompagnatore eccezionale. Per tutto il concerto, il suo pianoforte non ha quasi mai superato il mezzoforte, ma da lì al pianissimo ha trovato una serie infinita di sfumature. Gran successo e tre bis.
Corriere della Sera.it, Alberto Mattioli, 7 January 2015
“Tanti Lieder per il mago Ian”
- More info 11 Dec 14 SCHUBERT: Winterreise with Thomas Adès Laeiszhalle, Hamburg
“Franz Schuberts Zyklus “Winterreise” kann wehtun und rührt an Grenzen. Diese lotete der britische Tenor Ian Bostridge mit allen Mitteln aus. Mit ihm wurde der Liederabend zu einer Performance, die vermutlich sogar den Komponisten verstört hätte.”
Spiegel online, 12 December 2014
- More info 08 Nov 14 BRITTEN: Curlew River UNC Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“We are in the presence of greatness. In the all-British cast (except for the boy treble who hails from California), we have legendary tenor Ian Bostridge, who delivered tonight a goose-bumping performance for the ages, which is likely to be the highlight of my 2014-2015 season.
Mr. Bostridge is a slim man who looked diminutive on stage, until he opened his mouth. His voice is much more powerful than his figure indicates, and he possesses the agility and range required by this difficult vocal score. Acting is another one of his strengths, and he was thoroughly convincing as the Madwoman, with perfect rendition of her pain and despair.”
Luiz Gazzola, Opera Lively, 8th November 2014
- More info 30 Oct 14 BRITTEN: Curlew River Synod House, Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York
“the British tenor Ian Bostridge gave a courageously vulnerable performance of the Madwoman” … “in his haunted eyes and through the aching beauty of his ethereal yet muscular singing, he utterly conveys the character of the unhinged mother.”
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 31 October 2014
” Mr. Bostridge’s … plangent, haunting tenor brought an androgynous, Everyman character to the Madwoman’s extravagant anguish.”
Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson, 3 November 2014
Bostridge intense and compelling in Britten’s unnerving “Curlew River”
New York Classical Review, George Grella, 30 October 2014
- More info 10 Oct 14 INTERVIEW The Schubert Project: which are his best songs?
Der zürnenden Diana (The wrathful Diana)
There’s a whole debate about Schubert — what was his sexuality, was he gay? — and this song is a very sexy, thrusting song in a very unusual way, different from any of the Schubert songs I can think of. It’s about Actaeon singing to Diana, who is naked with her nymphs.
Actaeon is the narrator of the song — he sees Diana, gets very excited then his death is very obviously a metaphor as she conquers him: “the arrow strikes me” and “gently warm waves flow from the wound”. The song was dedicated to Katherina von Laczny, whom Schubert was very keen on — a notoriously free-thinking, free-loving woman.
The poem was written by Johann Mayrhofer; he and Schubert were very close and Schubert set more poems by him than anyone else. He became a censor in Vienna and felt so repressed by the political system that he committed suicide in 1836 by throwing himself out of his office window.
Neil Fisher, The Times, 10th October 2014
- More info 15 Sep 14 SCHUBERT Recital with Julius Drake Wigmore Hall, London
“Here was profound intensity, but contained as eloquence rather than indulged as expressionism. And what a formidable — joyous! — reciprocity these artists have achieved: a telepathy leaving nothing to be said, just as the twin sequences (each unbroken by applause) on the subject of longing, beginning with the exquisite, brief Das Heimweh (Homesickness) and ending with a sunset glow (Im Abendrot), in their introspective way said everything.”
The Sunday Times, Paul Driver, 21 September 2014
- More info 28 Aug 14 SCHUBERT Recital with Julius Drake Schubertiade Schwarzenberg
“British lyric tenor Ian Bostridge is widely considered one of the great interpreters of the art song. When he recently took his position on stage at the Schubertiade − joined by the superb pianist, Julius Drake − the audience tingled with anticipation.”
Bachtrack, Sarah Batschelet, 30 August 2014
- More info 09 Jul 14 SCHUMANN Recital with Sophie Daneman and Julius Drake Middle Temple Hall, London
“Daneman is an intuitive performer, boasting a bell-like tone and a warm, tranquil stage presence. Bostridge seems more cerebral, with a tightly coiled energy that teeters on the edge of explosion. Both, however, share an emotional agility that was proudly on show”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, July 10 2014
- More info 22 Jun 14 SCHUBERT: 'Winterreise' with Thomas Adès Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh
“At 49, Ian Bostridge is hardly an old man but he brings maturity, intelligence and a deep level of understanding to the work. This performance, alongside accompanist Thomas Adès (former artistic director at Aldeburgh), looked set to be one of the golden tickets at this year’s festival. And so it proved.”
Laura Battle, Financial Times, 24 June 2014
- More info 21 Nov 13 ARTICLE Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten Ian Bostridge writes in The Guardian
“The greatness of Benjamin Britten’s music is only now coming into focus”
Ian Bostridge, The Guardian, Thursday 21 November 2013
The Tempest Caliban
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Lysander / Flute
Billy Budd Captain Vere
Curlew River Madwoman
Death in Venice Aschenbach
The Rape of Lucretia Male Chorus
The Turn of the Screw Prologue / Quint
Acis and Galatea Acis
L’incoronazione di Poppea Nerone
L’Orfeo title role
Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria Ulisse
Die Entführung aus dem Serail Belmonte
Die Zauberflöte Tamino
Don Giovanni Don Ottavio
Idomeneo title role
The Bartered Bride Vasek
The Rake’s Progress Tom Rakewell
Oedipus Rex title role
Please contact Natasha Worsley for information on Ian Bostridge’s song and concert repertoire
Ian Bostridge / Faber & Faber
BOOK PUBLICATIONS – FABER & FABER
Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession
by Ian Bostridge (Faber & Faber / 1 January 2015)
Winner of The Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize for non-fiction writing 2016
“Schubert’s Winterreise is one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic masterpieces in Western culture. In his new book, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, Ian Bostridge – one of the work’s finest interpreters – focusses on the context, resonance and personal significance of the work. Drawing on his vast experience of performing Winterreise, on his musical knowledge and on his training as a scholar, Ian Bostridge unpicks the enigmas and subtle meaning of each of the 24 songs to explore the world Schubert inhabited, bringing the work and its world alive for connoisseurs and new listeners alike.”
Radio Open Source podcast interview: A Winter Journey with Ian Bostridge
“Some Winter Wonders”
Review by Alfred Brendel in the New York Review of Books
4 June 2015 (subscription required)
“A magnificent study of one of the most influential and simultaneously mysterious musical works of the Romantic period. And there’s no one better to crack it open than Bostridge, who knows its wormholes better than anyone.”
Jessica Ferri, The Daily Beast, 11 March 2015
“A new book promises to deepen the understanding of the legions of “Winterreise” devotees, while offering encouragement to interested music lovers who have had difficulty following the lieder. The tenor Ian Bostridge, a leading interpreter of “Winterreise,” has written a cross between an idiosyncratic guide to the song cycle and a freewheeling meditation on it, “Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession,” which he says at the outset aims “to explain, to justify, to contextualize and embroider.” … Mr. Bostridge, something of a polymath, draws on his deep reading and his long experience singing the cycle to explore Schubert’s world, the roots of the songs and how they have been received since they were written.”
Michael Cooper, New York Times, 18 February 2015
“His beautifully produced book offers many new insights that will inform the enjoyment of both old admirers and newcomers to the music. … Mr Bostridge is a good storyteller and keeps the reader in constant suspense.”
The Economist, 17 January 2015
“Bostridge’s highly enjoyable book provides a rewarding, intelligently written companion to the piece for those who know it well, as well as for those who are approaching it for the first time.”
Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times, 4 January 2015
“Winterreise, Bostridge argues, is “a message in a bottle set afloat in the cultural ocean of 1828” and, with the confidence of a master oarsman, Bostridge sails these waters with awesome virtuosity.”
Neil Fisher, The Times, 3 January 2015
“In the book, he inhabits not only the work, but the man. And — his most important achievement in writing it — it sends you scurrying back to the music.”
Dan Cairns, The Sunday Times, 28 December 2014
“Illuminating and comprehensive . . . rich, highly readable.”
Kirkus Reviews / November 2014 issue
“an impressive success: a long-gestated, intensely enjoyable study of Schubert’s Winterreise”
Literary Review, Rupert Christiansen, December 2014
A Singer’s Notebook
by Ian Bostridge (published Faber & Faber, October 2011)
voted a “Book of the Year” in both the Independent and the Financial Times.
“revelatory … this sparkling collection”
Adam Lively, Sunday Times, 2 October 2011
“these are the thoughts of a profoundly engaged artist … provocative, astringent, capable of arresting insights”
Michael Church, The Independent, 30 September 2011
The Sunday Telegraph
“weaving together … an enormously wide culture with acutely observed physical sensations” The Daily Telegraph
“a consistently lively, learned, urbane and passionate book, once opened not likely to be closed until you have read it all”
Michael Tanner, BBC Music Magazine, October 2011
“enjoyable and illuminating”
Rupert Christiansen, Sight & Sound, October 2011
“informative and thoughtful”
Robin Holloway, The Guardian, 7 October 2011
My Summer Reading: Tenor Ian Bostridge
Hilary Whitney interviews Ian Bostridge ahead of the publication of A Singer’s Notebook, a collection of reviews and essays by Bostridge (September 2011, Faber and Faber)
The Arts Desk / 23 August 2011