Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Jochen Kowalski (alto)Markus Hinterhäuser (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 10 774
Kowalski’s crystalline alto is an extraordinary and beautiful voice, and his recordings of Handel, early Mozart and Vivaldi were among the best of the early Nineties. But whatever his reasons for wanting to move on from the Baroque repertoire (and he presents them eloquently in the programme booklet), he is not a natural Lieder singer, and this recital is, frankly, excruciating.

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It’s difficult to pinpoint just what is so wrong with it – Christa Ludwig and Brigitte Fassbaender have, after all, made fine recordings of Winterreise, proving that Schubert’s song cycles are not the preserve of tenors and baritones – except that his voice is unsuitable. His tone has roughened slightly over the years, although he is still an accomplished and sensitive performer. But Lieder require more than pellucid tonal beauty and attention to detail, and Kowalski simply doesn’t sound like the country boy of Müller’s pastoral poems. His style and timbre are too contrived, too courtly, too rooted in the Age of Enlightenment, somehow just not männlich enough to make sense in such a quintessentially Romantic context. Markus Hinterhäuser’s jagged and unsubtle accompaniment does nothing to redeem things. Claire Wrathall