Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Die schöne Müllerin
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Paul Lewis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907519

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This recording of Schubert’s first great song cycle is full of good things, but it isn’t long since I was reviewing Jonas Kaufmann recorded in concert in this work (released on Decca), and the excitement and risk-taking of that performance is vividly present. By the side of it this new one, for all its merits, sounds safe and studied. 

It would be difficult to point to any particular weakness. Yet for all his immaculate enunciation, and his occasional outbursts, Mark Padmore does sound as if he would rather be singing an oratorio.

Paul Lewis, meanwhile, plays the hyperactive accompaniment – a vastly different affair from Winterreise – with force, clarity, precision and a reasonable amount of variation of colour and volume in the long slow strophic songs. I think I can envisage his playing with even more insight and verve if he had a more urgent partner. 

This is a very open-air cycle, as the greatest performances, certainly Kaufmann’s, make clear in every bar. This one, while not as studious and library-bound as, say, Ian Bostridge, remains indoors.

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Padmore’s voice still sounds reasonably young, but one can understand the fair maid of the mill fancying someone with a more boyish outlook on life, not yet thinking about settling down and having a family. Michael Tanner