WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Jochen Kupfer (baritone)Susanne Giesa (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 18898
The mill-wheel turns again; and this time it’s the German baritone Jochen Kupfer following the mill-race. His is an engaging, light and tenor-tinted baritone, and he has a nimble tread as he sets out. But his footsteps are too soon constricted by an accompanist who has the increasingly annoying habit of drawing back once too often before the voice enters.
If Susanne Giesa’s mannered rubato and frequent hesitations are the main drawback of this performance, there are also just too many instances of a lazy focus on pitch at the crest of a phrase, and some less than rigorous rhythmic articulation on Kupfer’s part. Put the two together and you have a reading in which the cog-wheels don’t quite bite.
It’s a pity, because Kupfer shows considerable sensitivity to Schubert’s word-setting: the vision of the moon and stars reflected in the brook in ‘Tränenregen’ is particularly beautifully done. But, in a bulging catalogue, this performance can only struggle for a hearing. One of my most cherished latterday baritone versions is that of Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper (Philips); though my benchmark now has to be the recording made by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Jörg Demus in 1968, and released only in 2000 as part of DG’s celebratory Fischer-Dieskau Edition: buoyant with youthful ardour, yet revealing countless little private aperçus, and with moments of almost unbearable poignancy. Hilary Finch