Disc No. 25, released earlier this year, contains Ian Bostridge's heartbreaking singing of the cycle Die schone Mullerin: music and musician, you'd swear, fashioned from the same bolt of lightning. Bostridge's career only took wing four years ago; his voice is, above all, flexible - the sound of an oboe, the soul of a clarinet. It wraps itself around a melody and disappears into it, and we are left with an essence, of an artistry overpowering yet invisible. As the ultimate seal of heavenly approval, the disc also includes Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, about whose singing 40 years ago I might have written some of those words. Now he appears as speaker, reading some of the Wilhelm Muller poems that Schubert did not include in his cycle.
On disc No. 30, Matthias Goerne sings Schubert's other cycle, Die Winterreise, with the soul of a clarinet in the roar of a volcano. Goerne was here last season, in an evening of chilling Hanns Eisler songs (which he has now recorded for London). His Schubert is also chilling, in a manner different from that of Bostridge. As the latter draws the tragedy of the young miller tight around him, Goerne's forsaken lover engulfs us in the larger-than-life enormity of his tragedy. I would not abandon my Aksel Schiotz Schone Mullerin or my Hans Hotter Winterreise or my 5-foot shelf of Fischer-Dieskau's Schubert; yet both these new discs, and the singers who made them, seem to me essential.