Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Die schöne Müllerin, D.795, op. 25
see end of review for track listing
Karol Kozłowski (tenor), Jolanta Pawlik (piano)
rec. Witold Lutoslawski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, September 2011
Sung texts with Polish translations enclosed
DUX 0588 [62:59]
The Schubert song-cycles have long been associated with baritones. In the 1930s it was Gerhard Hüsch who set standards, Hans Hotter followed suit and from the early fifties Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau dominated the market. By sheer coincidence I have in my latest bunch a box with all three cycles recorded by F-D at the very beginning of his career. I know that Schwanengesang is not a cycle in the real sense of the word but it is invariably performed as if it were. I am a great admirer of F-D but at least Die schöne Müllerin often is better suited to be sung by a tenor. The marvellous Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz made a pioneering recording in 1945, by many regarded as definitive, Peter Schreier sang it with his customary feeling for the text and during the last few years two tenors, who must be added to the short-list, have come my way: Jan Kobow and Daniel Behle. Many others have also set down this cycle: Gedda, Wunderlich, Bostridge and Prégardien, for instance. So competition is keen for a newcomer.
The young Polish tenor Karol Kozłowski has an attractive voice, youthful tone and nuanced phrasing. If the opening of Das Wandern felt a bit four-square it might be due to some initial nervousness - provided that the songs were recorded in the published order, which I know nothing about. Any such inhibitions soon disappear but what remains throughout is the poor sound of the piano. It is not the tuning but the tone, as recorded, is clangy and that affects the experience of the songs and the singing. The accompaniment as such is rather recessed, rather unobtrusive, which means that it is not irritating - apart from the actual sound - but it isn’t very interesting either.
The singer, however, goes from strength to strength and ends up with a reading that is spontaneous sounding and seemingly calculated. He sings Am Feierabend with intensity and plaintive tone, and in Der Neugierige he caresses O, Bächlein meiner Liebe exquisitely. In Ungeduld he delivers full-throated singing of impressive breadth - maybe a notch too much.
Morgengruss is one of the very best readings here, where his well judged nuances is a challenge for both Kobow and Behle. His pianissimo singing is lovely - just listen to the half-voice in Des Müllers Blumen. In faster songs, like Mein! he tends to be less flexible, even a bit clumsy, but elsewhere he is fresh, expressive and elegant. Try Mit dem grünen Lautenbande. Der Jäger is powerful and dramaticand Die liebe Farbe is tender.
The last three songs are always the most touching. Trockne Blumen is sung so soft, so inward, so definitive, with a crescendo on Ihr Blümlein alle and also on the very last stanza Dann Blümlein alle heraus, heraus! / Der Mai ist kommen, der Winter ist aus.
Der Müller und der Bach is also sensitively sung but I miss a more distinctive differentiation between the miller and the brook. This is after all a duet. The brook’s concluding soliloquy is movingly sung - though very slow. Overall his tempos are on the slow side and occasionally I would have welcomed some more forward movement.
The tenors I listed in the first paragraph will not be dethroned by this version, but my general impression is: Beautiful, considered singing without exaggerations. I will be looking forward to hearing more of Karol Kozłowski.
Masterwork Index: Die schöne Müllerin
1. Das Wandern [2:38]
2. Wohin? [2:15]
3. Halt! [1:33]
4. Danksagung an den Bach [2:07]
5. Am Feierabend [2:32]
6. Der Neugierige [3:55]
7. Ungeduld [2:34]
8. Morgengruss [4:42]
9. Des Müllers Blumen [3:38]
10. Tränenregen [4:02]
11. Mein! [2:20]
12. Pause [4:25]
13. Mit dem grünen Lautenbande [1:59]
14. Der Jäger [1:11]
15. Eifersucht und Stolz [1:36]
16. Die liebe Farbe [4:18]
17. Die böse Farbe [2:02]
18. Trockne Blumen [3:45]
19. Der Müller und der Bach [4:16]
20. Des Baches Wiegenlied [7:12]
Beautiful, considered singing without exaggerations.
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