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Franz SCHUBERT ( 1797 - 1828)
Die schöne Müllerin
see end of review for track listing
Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Gerold Huber (piano)
rec. 3-5 January 2013, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
Sung texts but no translations provided

The young tenor Maximilian Schmitt’s calendar is well-filled with engagements, at least for the next half year, his homepage tells us: St Matthew Passion, Die Schöpfung and Schubert’s Mass No. 6, Beethoven’s Ninth and other works with orchestra. In the midst of all this he finds time to sing Die schöne Müllerin at Wigmore Hall in mid-January. Londoners with a liking for German lieder will probably ask: ‘Is he any good?’ and my answer, very helpful, I know, is: ‘Yes, but …’ I will expand on this in the next paragraph.
He has a good voice - lyrical, smooth, beautiful, with easy delivery - this is evident from the beginning. Also evident is a kind of clumsiness in the phrasing. No, I withdraw this remark, it isn’t exactly clumsy but it isn’t ideally lithe either. I also will qualify this remark further: this goes for the first four songs. Maybe I should have written instead: After a slightly hesitant start, where he leaves the impression of being rather uninvolved, he finds his way in Am Feierabend (tr. 5). Here his plaintive tone goes to the heart of the matter and the text opens up. The same goes for Der Neugierige (tr. 6). In Ungeduld (tr. 7) the nervous forward movement is spot-on. Morgengruss (tr. 8) is tender and inward and Des Müllers Blumen (tr. 9) and Tränenregen (tr. 10) he sings very beautifully. Then again, somewhere here the objections start to creep in: Isn’t it too polished? Isn’t it too lacking in temperament? All right, the last stanza of Tränenregen gives a glimpse of something darker and there is some temperament in Mein! (tr. 11). There is nothing wrong with Pause (tr. 12) and Der Jäger (tr. 14) has intensity but Eifersucht und Stolz (tr 15) is rather tame. Der Müller und der Bach (tr. 19) is a dialogue but I don’t hear two voices. Des Baches Wiegenlied (tr. 20) is very beautifully sung and when I turned off my equipment and silence surrounded me I could still hear, as a faint echo, Maximilian Schmitt’s voice inside my head. Looking back on my notepad and seeing some less than flattering comments, I at first felt a little ashamed, but on thinking it over realized that my verdict was fair: Constantly beautiful singing but a certain lack of colour and drama. No shadow should fall on Gerold Huber, a former pupil of Helmut Deutsch and a very experienced accompanist, not least for Christian Gerhaher. His playing is spotless. Nothing wrong with the recording either, I would however have liked English translations - but they are easily available online.
‘Is he any good?’ Yes, he is a very good singer and a year on from the recording I am sure he will deliver a likeable reading of Die schöne Müllerin at Wigmore Hall on 12 January 2014. I am also sure that I will return to some of the songs here for the sheer beauty of the singing. However, for a really consummate reading of the cycle I will turn to Jan Kobow or Daniel Behle, Christoph Prégardien or Peter Schreier or, even further back, Aksel Schiøtz.
Göran Forsling

Masterwork Index: Die schöne Müllerin

Track listing
1. Das Wandern [2:52]
2. Wohin? [2:47]
3. Halt! [1:29]
4. Danksagung an den Bach [2:22]
5. Feierabend [2:47]
6. Der Neugierige [3:59]
7. Ungeduld [2:54]
8. Morgengruß [4:18]
9. Des Müllers Blumen [3:45]
10. Tränenregen [3:57]
11. Mein! [2:41]
12. Pause [4:52]
13. Mit dem grünen Lautenbande [2:14]
14. Der Jäger [1:19]
15. Eifersucht und Stolz [1:50]
16. Die liebe Farbe [4:36]
17. Die böse Farbe [2:19]
18. Trockne Blumen [4:02]
19. Der Müller und der Bach [3:54]
20. Des Baches Wiegenlied [7:30]