Schubert: Die schone Müllerin

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Oehms Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Die schone Müllerin
WORKS: Die schone Müllerin
PERFORMER: Maximilian Schmitt (tenor); Gerold Huber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OC 882

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This is one of those discs which it is hard to say much about, because the performance of Schubert’s first song cycle is so natural, so spontaneous-seeming and so lacking in any of the artfulness which for a time was so fashionable in singing art songs that it discourages commentary. In reviewing, say, Ian Bostridge or Peter Pears in the same work one could write columns about their pointing up of meanings, their constant changes of voice colouring, and so forth. All one needs to say about this young German tenor Maximilian Schmitt, whom I haven’t encountered before, is that he sounds as if singing were his natural medium of communication. And in that he is wonderfully supported by Gerold Huber, already a well-known accompanist.

That approach might not suit the later and greater cycle Winterreise, where the bare notes seem to require added expression, but this earlier work, which remains light-hearted if somewhat anxious for over half its length, needs only to be as beautiful as possible. And when things turn nasty and the fair maid turns her attentions elsewhere, that is all very clearly written into the music: this is essentially an extroverted work, even in the pathos and suffering of the last few songs – though the last of all is a comforting lullaby, as moving as it is simple, and giving the impression that it will last forever. One wouldn’t mind if it did.

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Michael Tanner