Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin

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LABELS: Challenge
WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Michael Gees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72292 ; (hybrid CD/SACD)


There’s a sense of déjà vu here: haven’t we already experienced Christoph Prégardien’s Die schöne Müllerin? In 1992, the German tenor revealed Schubert’s cycle in a new light, accompanied by the Viennese fortepiano of Andreas Staier. Now, Prégardien brings ever new revelation to the songs, and though his pianist, Michael Gees, plays a modern piano, both vocal and keyboard parts are ornamented in the performing practice of Schubert’s time. It seems extraordinary that this has not happened before (the booklet suggests reasons for this) – and Prégardien and Gees certainly make an irresistibly convincing case for subtle embellishment. There’s a brighter glint of movement in the water of the mill-race; extra sighing, leaning notes which increase the music’s already plangent sense of yearning when heard in the tenor register. There are extra heart-beats and fiercer shudders of anger, too. But these details are as eloquent as they are only because they heighten an already minutely observant performance. Prégardien and Gees give time and space for every nuance and rhythmic pulse in the emotional life of the lovelorn miller’s apprentice. You could argue that embellishment is more appropriate to live performance – and that you might not want to hear each ornament fossilised on repeated hearings. If you’d feel safer with the standard version, then try the earlier Prégardien (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), the young Ian Bostridge with Graham Johnson (and Fischer-Dieskau reciting the extra poems) on Hyperion; or the version which remains my benchmark among tenors, Werner Güra with Jan Schultsz. Hilary Finch