Loved these but not those

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  April 8, 2009

Bostridge's manner is odd. He's built like a gangly Bunthorne singing glorious songs of loss and pain and the beauty of nature, and more often than not he was leaning with awkward self-consciousness against the piano, with one leg sticking out and his foot resting on its heel. He almost never entered the physical life of the song's narrator — he expressed yearning, sorrow, joy all with the same body language. And he tends to sing in chunks of mood rather than pointing or coloring individual words, the way the greatest lieder singers effortlessly, almost unconsciously do. He sang three "fishing" songs, among them the famous comic song about a fisherman who "catches a trout with his quivering rod." Bostridge knew it was supposed to be funny, but I'm not sure he really got the joke.

His voice has the timbre of burnished pewter, but it thins out on top, distorts at high volumes, and almost disappears at the bottom. (At intermission, a woman asked a Celebrity Series representative whether he couldn't tell the pianist to play the low notes more quietly.) An awkward juxtaposition of tonal qualities is one of his least appealing qualities. And yet he has a good musical line and very good taste in Schubert songs. No throw-aways. The majority of the audience worshipped him, and he returned, generously, for four encores, the last of which, "Im Abendrot" ("In the Evening Glow"), included his warmest, most relaxed, and expressive singing.

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