Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerinby Thomas Quasthoff
One of the simple charms of Schubert's perennial song cycle "Die Schöne Müllerin" comes in the fourth song, "Am Feierabend" (At Evening After Work), when the young protagonist mocks the deep, rich voice of his boss, the miller, while repeating his nightly words of appreciation: "I am pleased with your work." This small moment of characterization lets the singer play with vocal color, and sheds light on the personality of the young man at the center of the cycle's emotional journey -- is he the mocking type? The impressionable, admiring type? Does he like his work? The essential problem, if indeed it is one, of this Thomas Quasthoff recording becomes clear in that one moment: himself possessed of one of the darker, richer, more rough-hewn bass voices on record, Quasthoff doesn't need to create a parody of the miller's sound. He is the miller already. Indeed, because Quasthoff's voice is so dark, and the performance transposed to such relatively low keys, keeping the piano mired in its most grumbling registers, the entire cycle takes on a well-weathered gravity much closer in tone and affect to Schubert's more desolate "Winterreise." It's hard to detect the unspoiled optimism of youth, adventure, and fresh love that are so central to the cycle's opening songs in a sound that is already so worldly. If there is a reason to find fault with this recording, that's it. On the other hand, Quasthoff's fans will find everything they've come to expect from and appreciate in the unique singer here: robust, often beautiful singing, direct engagement with poetry, and a fine sense for musical storytelling. Justus Zeyen does an admirable job of keeping his piano texture un-muddied -- sometimes resulting in a more careful, de-energized approach than would ideally suit the expressive context, but never sacrificing clarity or comprehension. In the end, this is a recording that will appeal to Quasthoff's fans primarily -- those who want the sound of his voice in their favorite music. For those just getting acquainted with the cycle, there are probably better, more characteristic choices to be had.
- Release Date:
- Deutsche Grammophon
- Die schöne Müllerin, song cycle, for voice & piano, D. 795 (Op. 25)
Performance CreditsThomas Quasthoff Primary Artist
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