Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin

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WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Dietrich Henschel (baritone); Fritz Schwinghammer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Debut CDZ 5 72824 2 Reissue (1999)
With his healthy, virile baritone, Dietrich Henschel portrays Schubert’s and Müller’s miller-poet as more balanced and ‘normal’ than usual. The earlier songs have an attractive, outgoing freshness, though with few hints of the vulnerability and latent instability suggested by the likes of Fischer-Dieskau, Schreier and Bostridge; and in the central group of strophic songs he avoids the trap of sentimentality and varies his phrasing and colouring thoughtfully between verses. But in the songs from ‘Mein’ – here short on ecstasy – onwards, Henschel’s relatively robust, uncomplicated approach consistently underplays the youth’s volatile mood swings and his final despair. In ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ he gets the anger but not the pain, ‘Die böse Farbe’ is hearty rather than embittered, and while he is touching in the desolate opening of ‘Trockne Blumen’, the searing climax is too straightforwardly extrovert. Fritz Schwinghammer matches his singer with playing that is always musical if not specially subtle or illuminating. Unless you’re allergic to Fischer-Dieskau’s restlessly probing, minutely detailed style, his 1961 EMI recording is still the front-runner among baritone versions. Richard Wigmore