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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die schöne Müllerin (1823).
Roman Trekel (baritone); Oliver Pohl (piano).
Rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, 15-18 Nov 2004. DDD
Text included

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Roman Trekel and Oliver Pohl take us on an interesting, eminently musical journey here. But the tell-tale sign that all is not 'great' in the sense of the greatest recordings is that the final song, 'Des Baches Wiegenlied', does not exude the lullaby-like hushed stillness it should. We are not left gazing into the middle-distance, having been taken into Schubert's world. Rather this Müllerin comes across as less than the sum of its parts; no matter how nice those parts may be.

Trekel's diction is excellent. He manages not to gabble in the faster Lieder ('Ungeduld', for example) and he can be remarkably tender (as he imagines the farewell in 'Die böse Farbe'). The second lied, 'Whin?' shows Trekel's way with the text at less hectic speeds. There is no suggestion of over-emphasis; all is still very, very clear.

Other highlights include the raptness of 'Morgengruss', the calm of 'Tränenregen' and the dark and desolate 'Die liebe Farbe'. The spare writing of No. 18, 'Trockne Blumen' evokes the sadness of wilting flowers in its spareness, while the china-like delicacy of 'Der Neugierige' has one sitting at the edge of the seat. 'Morgengruss' has a lovely rapt feeling mixed with awe for the protagonist's beloved.

To balance this, it should be mentioned that one of the vital songs, 'Mein!', is a little careful, not approaching the sense of abandonment that some interpreters reveal. Neither, though, does Trekel go down the Bostridge path (in his recent recording with Uchida) of derangement and overtly obvious self-delusion. And the very first song, 'Das Wandern', despite Pohl's 'tramping along' piano, does not reveal the happy, carefree wandering of the text. The song-cycle begins, in this sense, already some way along its journey before the actual music begins. An interesting idea, but not one to emphasise the sense of journey actually within the hour's worth of music we hear, from carefree to desolation.

Perhaps the clean intervals of 'Des Müllers Blumen' reveal the problem. Much attention to detail, fine technical prowess but not that final engagement that is necessary to grip the listener over the span of an hour. The recording is excellently clear and throughout Pohl is an eminently musical, if not inspired, accompanist.

There are no accompanying notes for this release and the text is only given in German, but Oehms Classics do include 'Der Dichter, als Prolog' that precedes the first song.

Colin Clarke

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