More revealing, I think, than the almost embarrassingly successful second half of the previous Saturday's Dorothea Röschmann/Ian Bostridge duo recital was its first.
They began the all-Schumann program with his Op. 78 duets. Rapport was bizarrely lacking: the two seemed psychically separate, perhaps even at odds. The lightly cruel comic interplay of Tanzlied worked fairly well; the other songs not so much.
The solo selections of the main course -- the complete Myrthen, Op. 25, divided between the two -- shed a clearer light. Bostridge, despite his stage contortions, inability to look at the audience, etc. (all fully evident this evening) -- or perhaps enabling these -- he is certain of his audience, and comfortable within them. Whether by stardom or birth, he acts as if their response is guaranteed, and shapes effects for them with confidence.
Röschmann, though, is naked, almost terrifyingly so. She began as one tentative, singing Der Nußbaum (one of the cycle's famous selections) with little blissful dreaminess but much of the therein-mentioned girl's young longing. Desire is her metier -- a lover's desire, exquisitely vulnerable to nonreciprocation; delivered on her quick and expressive vibrato, it's an operatic wonder. But how strange it was to see this great artist apparently taking such a position vis-a-vis this recital audience... Her body language genuinely seemed to doubt its approval or even acceptance. (Did she think it all simply Bostridge fans?)
Not until her songs' emotions reached heights of woe, rapture, and faith -- in unforgettable, totally immediate performances of Die Hochländer Witwe and Rückert's two "Lied[er] der Braut" -- did Röschmann appear sure in who she was, and bring a balance to that recital stage.
Julius Drake accompanied the contrasting pair with unending sympathy and natural-as-breath phrasing.
UPDATE (5/23): I hadn't realized until today that Röschmann and Bostridge's program duplicated this disc they did in 2002 for Hyperion's Schumann song series. If it weren't for my wierd inability to listen to recordings these last few years, I'd offer a comparison. I'd be interested in the thoughts of any who've heard it, though.