Die schöne Müllerin
Andrè Schuen (baritone), Daniel Heide (piano)
DG 483 9558 67:10 mins
Schubert’s lovelorn miller-boy has attracted countless recordings, so each new one of the first of his two great song cycles faces greater challenges. Happily, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide generally rise to them through these 20 songs, which recount a miller-boy’s infatuation, his hope that he’s loved in return, his gradual realisation that the girl prefers another and his descent into suicidal despair.
Schuen’s operatic voice brings tremendous excitement to ebullient songs such as the crowd-pleasing ‘Mein’. But he’s equally capable of drawing us in with a warmly seductive, half-breathed sound. Even his quieter singing flows effortlessly on a bedrock of astounding technique.
Heide’s playing is balanced and imaginative. ‘Eifersucht and Stolz’ is played with superb clarity and energy, but overall, tempos are expansive, bordering on slow. This reading replaces the agility and lightness of 1820s Vienna with late Romantic gravitas, and it’s matched by a rich, close-miked sound.
All that said, Schuen sounds so virile, one wonders why this miller-boy doesn’t simply thump his rival, the hunter, soundly. When Schuen declares that the miller-maid is ‘his’ in the 11th song, we hear nothing of the young miller’s fraying sanity. In the obsessive ‘Die liebe Farbe’, Schuen sounds clear-sighted and tragic, but there is no hint of the semi-deranged vulnerability that would lead to suicide.
Overall, these two musicians are so confident and polished, it’s hard to see why the much-adored girl isn’t besotted with this robust, healthy, velvet-voiced lover with his equally smooth and perceptive pianistic sidekick. These quibbles of verisimilitude aside, Schuen and Heide offer exemplary musicianship, so if you like your heroes heroic and an artful performance of this great cycle, then this is one for you.