WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Uwe Heilmann (tenor)James Levine (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 354-2 DDD
The hero of Die schöne Müllerin is too simply optimistic to survive disappointment, and Schubert’s cycle of 20 songs traces the story without irony. The would-be miller may seem stupid, but he’s a symbol for what happens to innocence when confronted by the world. The singer should win our hearts by sincerity, or at least without conspicuous artfulness. It helps if his voice is beautiful.
Uwe Heilmann’s voice is highly trained but not naturally impressive or lovely. He sounds neither young nor particularly eligible, so he starts with a disadvantage for which he compensates with much acting. Already, in the second song (‘Wohin?’), his energetic attention to detail seems too elaborate. The young man sounds neurotic.
The real pleasure of the disc comes from James Levine’s splendid piano-playing. He inspires confidence from the very start, and with appropriate lustiness. He’s also sensitive and responds to changing moods with striking alertness, for instance in the fifth song, ‘Am Feierabend’, while the last four bars of the tenth, ‘Tränenregen’, are exquisitely delicate and touching. The piano itself sounds gorgeous. They should reissue the disc without the vocal part, so you can sing along with Levine in the performance of your dreams. Adrian Jack