Die schöne Müllerin
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Saskia Giorgini (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 775 61:17 mins
Tenor Ian Bostridge and Die schöne Müllerin have form. A quarter of a century ago pianist Graham Johnson chose him for the cycle as part of Hyperion’s complete Schubert song odyssey. Less than a decade on followed another recording with Mitsuko Uchida; and now comes this third, recorded live at Wigmore Hall with Salzburg Mozart Competition winner Saskia Giorgini. The inevitable change in timbre over the years is striking; and when Bostridge argues that the cycle is more than a ‘rustic pastoral confection of adolescent love-mongering’, whilst undeniably true, he’s also justifying a voice darker, less readily manoeuvrable and no longer in the first flush of youth. Innocence yields to experience so that even the first song seems tinged with a premonition of the painful trajectory that will lead to the watery embrace of the brook.
‘Das Wandern’ underlays delight with the almost-menace of some unbiddable imperative. What follows isn’t so much an initially wide-eyed voyage of discovery into love, loss and despair, but a series of flashbacks refracted through the prism of a knowledge hard-won. It’s a valid approach, typical of Bostridge’s always-inquisitive psychological antennae; and how deliciously arch is the greeting at the beginning of ‘Morgengruss’, or crushingly matter-of-fact the ending of ‘Tränenregen’. ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ snarls with a desperation that isn’t quite ‘earthed’ in ‘Die liebe Farbe’. But in the frisson of live performance a few technical issues obtrude, while expressiveness sometimes trespasses into caricature. And in the previous recording, under Uchida’s deliquescent fingers, the brook babbles more beguilingly than for Giorgini.