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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die schöne Müllerin D. 795
Andreas Schmidt (baritone), Rudolf Jansen (pianoforte)
Recorded Sender freies Berlin, Kleiner Sendesaal, 5th-8th June 2000
HÄNSSLER CD 98.373 [61í26"]


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Schmidt and Jansen first recorded this cycle for DG about ten years ago. After a decade of constant work together they reasonably feel the time has come to give us their latest thoughts.

In the case of Schmidt, it is the simplicity of his utterance which strikes us most. In a certain sense he seems to be just singing the work very simply in an even but now just very slightly dry-toned voice. And yet this seems to be enough. His interpretation has the timeless quality of a slightly bemused wanderer who sees his world falling to smithereens all round him. Tempi in the faster songs are, to this end, fairly moderate Ė hear Der Jäger, for example. The tempi of the slower songs, on the other hand, remain mobile Ė there is no stagnation and absolutely no sentimentality.

With Jansen, years of familiarity with the work seem to have lead to a tireless research for the precise weight and colour of every single phrase, including how to vary the strophic repetitions. Put like this, it sounds as if the two are going opposite ways, and in fact it does seem to be the pianist who rings the expressive changes and the singer who reacts to them. But oddly enough it works, presumably because they have planned it that way and honed it that way over the years. The pianist is certainly not "carrying" the singer; he provides a variegated expressive backdrop against which the seemingly helpless young man moves.

Schmidt provides a note in which he points out that this is often considered a tenorís cycle; however, when he came to terms with it he was impressed by its overall pessimism. If your own view is that this cycle is about a bright young man whose naive first love brings him to tragedy you will probably be better off with a typical tenorís interpretation, and Schmidt suggests as much. But valid interpretations of the great Schubert cycles are almost as many as there are singers to sing them, and Schmidtís and Jansenís way is as valid as any. I hope you will be able to gather, from my description, whether it is a way which will appeal to you.

Christopher Howell

 


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