Schubert: Die Schone mullerin

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Die schone mullerin
WORKS: Die Schone mullerin
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge, Mitsuko Uchida
CATALOGUE NO: 557 8272

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It’s 10 years since Ian Bostridge’s first recording of Die schöne Müllerin; and a lot of water has flowed through the mill-race in his life and in his voice since then. There’s one little sentence at the heart of the song ‘Des Müllers Blumen’ which speaks volumes about the difference between the two performances. ‘Das ist es, was ich meine’, or ‘You know just what I mean’.

The lovelorn miller’s apprentice is hoping the forget-menots will pass on their message to his beloved. In 1995, Bostridge sang the monosyllables with deeply moving simplicity: ten years on, they come over as emoted oratory.

Bostridge’s deeply pondered conception of this song cycle has not changed dramatically. But the narcissistic ardour and the raging anger are now all magnified into nearhysteria. We are by the psychoanalyst’s couch; and what we hear is feverish with self-dramatisation.

To give Bostridge his due, this may well be intentional. But vocally and musically it actually works less well. Less is more, when more involves so much over-articulation, and a constant straining for effect – and sometimes for pitch, too.

There is still so much to enjoy – the excited leaping from bank to bank, the hypnotic legato as the lad yields to fate. But the vocal ease and unselfconscious responses of his early encounters have gone; and Mitsuko Uchida’s playing conspires in the tendency to mannerism lurking within this performance.

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The earlier recording, part of Hyperion’s Schubert Edition, was something of a benchmark in itself, not least because of the presence of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau reciting the unset poems. But now, among tenor recordings which include the important Peter Schreier/András Schiff (Decca), the stimulating Christoph Prégardien, with Andreas Staier’s fortepiano (DHM), that by Werner Güra with Jan Schultsz triumphs, with its instinctive intensity and effortless sense of phrasing and line. Hilary Finch