Die schöne Müllerin
Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)
Sony Classical 88985427402
This is not just a very fine recording of Schubert’s first song cycle. Wilhelm Müller wrote 25 poems entitled Die schöne Müllerin, of which Schubert discarded five when he set them to music. Christian Gerhaher, in his second recording of the cycle, argues in a lengthy article that to have those five recited in their original places gives a new slant on things: there is irony in these poems, though irony didn’t ever interest Schubert. Anyway, Gerhaher duly recites them, one to start the cycle off, one to round it off, and three spread through Schubert’s songs. It’s an interesting idea, but misconceived. Who wants to hear these poems recited each time he listens to the music?
Nonetheless, this is a most distinguished account. Gerhaher’s voice, a fairly light baritone, retains its youthful sound and his articulation is superb – this is someone living the words, not reporting on the miller’s journey. The tenth song contains the fair maid’s rejection, sung with just the right degree of detachment; and the next song is ‘Mein’, as if the miller had no idea that he had just been jilted – that is subtly brought out. Gerold Huber is a marvellous pianist, urging the story along to riveting effect. I would say buy and get used to skipping.