SCHUBERT Die schöne Müllerin • Maximilian Schmitt (ten); Gerold Huber (pn) • OEHMS 882 (66:41 Text and Translation)
It might seem strange that a formidable thinker would suggest such a thing, but Arthur Schopenhauer tells us that we shouldn’t read too much. “A constant flow of thoughts by other people can stop and deaden your own….The mind is deprived of all its elasticity by much reading….This practice is the reasonRead more why erudition makes most men more stupid and simple than they are by nature.” With this in mind, we might find an explanation for the many shallow and fussy performances of Die schöne Müllerin by singers who have been influenced by too many Kapellmeister, Meisterklassenführer, Gesangslehrer, and Doktorväter, at the expense of their own feelings and ideas. Even with vocalists who seem to come up with something original, a goal that appears to be very dear to them, the originalities are usually a synthesis, either conscious or unconscious, of other people’s views. Maximilian Schmitt is refreshingly free from these misdemeanors, and brings us a forthright performance of the great, beautiful, divine, but perhaps overdone cycle. His voice, lyric, pure, and sunny, is virtually ideal for these songs, and his solid technique allows him free rein to express what is on his mind and heart. Some tempos are out of the ordinary, and we might question why, in “Wohin,” the tempo slows while he sings “… und wandre fröhlich nach,” but generally there is clear dramatic intent behind occasional eccentricities.
We might not be thoroughly persuaded that we are listening to a robust country worker in the first flush of youth, but it is a difficult task to evoke such a personality and still follow Schubert’s very detailed, very refined musical suggestions. Hotter does this, Gedda, Wunderlich, and Roman Trekel do this, but they are the only ones to convince on that score.
One might wish for more floating pianissimos at the end of each verse in “Morgengruss.” One might also wish for more abandon in the five dramatic songs, “Ungeduld,” “Mein,” “Der Jäger,” “Eifersucht und Stolz,” and “Die böse Farbe” in contrast to the other 15 lyrical ones, so that the dramatic landscape of the cycle would have more peaks and valleys. Still, this is an admirable and moving performance. The phrasing is unmannered and graceful, the tone always limpid. Most importantly, one believes what Maximilian Schmitt is telling us.
The success of this recording is largely due to the brilliant accompaniments of Gerold Huber, whose technical freedom and vivid imagination perform the alchemy of turning the cycle’s sights, feelings, and events into sounds. His tone, whether reflecting the clatter of the mill wheel, the strings of the lute, or the flow of the river, is very beautiful, very evocative. There is much originality and depth in the musical descriptions of both artists, stemming from a clear vision rather than an attempt to be original.