Schubert Die Schöne Mullerin

Author: 
Alan Blyth

SCHUBERT Die Schöne Mullerin – Schreier/Schiff

  • (Die) Schöne Müllerin

As one might have expected, this is a worthy successor to the same pair's Gramophone Award-winning Schwanengesang (Decca (CD) 425 612-2DH, 6/90). The interpretation again seems unobtrusively right, the kind of central interpretation that virtually disarms criticism. What struck me throughout is the unforced empathy between the two artists. Like Pears and Britten, whose admired 1960 version will soon be available on CD, singer and pianist think absolutely as one, yet each has his own particularly contribution to bring to the reading. In the case of Schreier, it is the sense of the vulnerable youth expressed through plangent, luminous tone that etches itself into the mind.
As in his three earlier recordings (DG, Intercord and EMI Electrola—none of which is currently available), Schreier brings before our eyes and implants on our mind the boy's suffering soul and does that at all times with the innate musicality and feeling for phrase that have continually informed his singing. Once more tone, words and line seem in ideal balance. Phrase after phrase of happiness or sorrow strikes the right response from the protagonist and so from the listener. Regular readers will know of the praise I heaped on Protschka (Capriccio/Target) and Blochwitz (DG) in their versions, none of which I withdraw: it is simply that what they do so convincingly Schreier does even better. His sole peer is Patzak (Preiser/Harmonia Mundi), but the latter's sense of tuning isn't so fine.
In any case none of those tenors has a pianist in Schiff's class. Throughout the cycle—and this is one occasion where detailed reference seems just superfluous—he throws new light on figures, indeed whole songs by virtue of clarity of articulation allied to a penetrating mind. The many representations of flowing water in so many different pianistic similes is time and again illuminating and satisfying. In two of Schreier's earlier performances fresh facets were revealed by having a fortepiano (Intercord) or a guitar (EMI Electrola) as his partner. Schiff seems to have the best of all worlds through his imitation of the timbre of each of those instruments when that is appropriate, for all the insights are here afforded within a weight of playing appropriate to Schubert's era. Overall he and Schreier achieve a quite exceptional intensity of utterance.
To complete one's pleasure Christopher Raeburn has again contrived a recording that has immediacy and air round it with voice and keyboard perfectly balanced. Still further satisfaction can be gleaned for those with French by reading the notes by Alexandre Menetrier, the most perceptive analysis of the cycle that I have encountered and more enlightening than the essay in English. This is now my recommended version of the cycle, unless you want a baritone when the excellent Holzmair/Demus version (Preiser/Harmonia Mundi) should be sought out.'

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