In Im Wald (In the Forest), an intriguing new album (DCTT126) for the Italian label Digressione Music, the gifted musical artist Benedetto Bocuzzi creates a richly varied program that juxtaposes the quintessentially Romantic Waldszenen Op. 82 (Forest Scenes) of Robert Schumann, and piano versions of Franz Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) with contemporary compositions by Jörg Widmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Helmut Lachenmann, and one by the artist himself.

Lied im Traume (Dream Song), Warum? (Why?), Glocken (Bells) and Mit Humor und Feinsinn (With Humor and Subtlety) – all excerpts from Jörg Widmann’s 2007 composition Elf Humoresken (Eleven Humoresques), provide a bracing atonal contrast to the iconic Romanticism of Schumann’s Waldszene (Forest Scenes).

In an unexpected moment of boldness, Benedetto Bocuzzi – the composer – uses dreamlike effects in his electronic construct Im Wald (In the Forest).

Wolfgang Rihm’s 1979 work Ländler – a brace of folk dances in ¾ time – and Helmut Lachenmann’s 1956 Five Variations on a theme of Franz Schubert – both 20th century compositions – comment instrumentally in their diverse ways on Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) the 1824 song cycle about tragically unrequited love.

Throughout the album’s two dozen selections, Bocuzzi excels with a flawless technique always at the service of Schumann’s descriptively soulful music, journeying from the restlessness of Jäger auf der Lauer (Hunters awaiting), traveling through Verrufene Stelle (Disreputable Place), basking in the serenity of Freundliche Landschaft (Welcoming Landscape), dealing with the harmonic and emotional uncertainties of Herberge (Hostel), exploring the spirituality of Vogel als Prophet (Prophetic Bird) and the virility of Jagdlied (Hunting Song), and memorably culminating in a heartfelt farewell Abschied.

From Schubert’s now sad, now joyous song cycle, based on poems by Wilhelm Müller, Bocuzzi plays several selections in excellent piano versions of several of the songs in Schubert’s cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Digging deep into the music, magisterially, delicately, and with deep musicality mining the youthful energy of Das Wandern (Wandering), and the myriad colors and emotions pianistically narrated in Danksagung an den Bach (Giving Thanks to the Creek), Am Feierabend (At Day’s End), Der Neugierige (The Curious One), Die liebe Farbe (The Beloved Color), Trockne Blumen (Wilted Flowers), and the deathlike tranquility of Des Baches Wiegenlied (The Lullaby of the Creek), Bocuzzi raises the bar high for musicians planning  to explore this repertory in the future.

Perfectly packaged, authoritatively annotated, and exemplarily engineered, Im Wald instantly becomes upon repeated hearings an indispensable collection of the new and the old, brought to vibrant life by a major pianist-composer.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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