Notes and Editorial Reviews
Hagegard and Ax allow Schubert to speak for himself in sensible, moderate speeds and discreet phrasing, coming perhaps closer to a truly Schubertian ideal than more celebrated interpreters of this work.
With the galaxy of distinguished versions by the baritones and their equally distinguished pianists listed above, forgetting for a moment tenor readings, is there room for yet another? When it is as rewarding as this one, the answer is a decided 'Yes'. I have admired Hagegard in Lieder ever since he announced his considerable credentials in the field almost 20 years ago in London's Wigmore Hall. Based largely in the US, he has returned here too infrequently but always to his audiences' pleasure.
tells us just why. Simply as a voice his is perhaps superior to that of any of those singers listed above. It is, paradoxically, a light yet heroic sound, typically Swedish in timbre, flexible throughout its range and—relevant to the work in hand—tenor-like in tone. Its owner uses it with marked attention to vocal verities, never disturbing a sure legato, placing his words firmly and naturally on it.
The eager youth of the early songs is unerringly enacted, perhaps without quite the sense of vulnerability suggested by Holzmair and some tenor interpreters, although by the same token he suggests an appropriately open-air, fresh youth, and one wholly obsessed by the mill girl as the hushed singing of the couplet beginning "Du blondes Küpfchen" in "Morgengruss" and the confident élan of "Mein!" convey. When sorrow, jealousy and eventually heartbreak enter the lad's life, Hagegard projects these with as much conviction yet without a hint of exaggeration or sentimentality. He, and the sensitive but never obtrusive Ax, allow Schubert to speak for himself in sensible, moderate speeds and discreet phrasing: in the context of frequent repetitions, this has undoubted advantages. Holzmair and Demus, Schmidt and Jansen do much the same. I would find it hard to choose among these three versions if I wanted a straightforward reading, but at present I feel that the sheerly beautiful sound of Hagegard's voice places him marginally in front. Bar, Souzay and, most of all, Fischer-Dieskau peer deeper into the songs and the youth's psychology—but I'm not sure that Hagegard and his partner may not come closer to a truly Schubertian ideal, as do some tenor versions, their merits often discussed here.
The recording is ideally balanced. The only regret is that it has taken almost eight years for this version to appear here.
-- Gramophone [2/1995]
Works on This Recording
Die schöne Müllerin, D 795/Op. 25 by Franz Schubert
Håkan Hagegård (Baritone),
Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria
Venue: RCA Studio A, New York City
Length: 61 Minutes 19 Secs.
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