Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin – Mark Padmore, tenor/ Paul Lewis, piano – Harmonia mundi

Two fabulous musicians pushing the beautiful boundaries of Schubert to newer heights.

Published on February 13, 2013

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin – Mark Padmore, tenor/ Paul Lewis, piano – Harmonia mundi

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin – Mark Padmore, tenor/ Paul Lewis, piano – Harmonia mundi HMC 907519, 74:18 ****: 

Based on poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), Die schöne Müllerin is one of the most celebrated song cycles in the vocal repertoire. Divided into 20 songs, the narrative of this cycle depicts a young traveller and his journey in the countryside, where he meets and falls in love with the Miller’s daughter. Müller’s setting starts with a youthful cheerfulness at the beginning, but ultimately, the story ends in despair when the Miller’s daughter rejects the love of the young traveller, and with hopelessness, he drowns himself at the countryside brook. Not a scenario one typical sees in our today’s world.

Taking this narrative and its interpretation into the recording studio are two Englishmen, tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis. Recorded at the Lyndhurst Hall in London in September 2009, this is a recording that opens new doors to Schubert’s world of vocal lieder, and is a welcoming addition to the catalogue of Die schöne Müllerin versions. Both Padmore and Lewis probe into the deep roots of the human psyche with great distinction and alacrity. Like their predecessors Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/ Gerald Moore some forty-eight years ago, the Englishmen present a sincere and unreserved interpretation of their love of the music and its narrative. Padmore, importantly, has such vocal versatility that can sound as youthful as he needs to represent the drive and jolly heart of the youthful traveller as in the first song Das Wandern. He then skilfully depicts   emotional crossroads of the protagonist in the sixth song Der neugierige. His almost effortlessly transition to represent heavier weights in the narrative as it evolves into the terrains of melancholy and despair can best be appreciated through his tonal range and darker palette of colours.  Listen to the two vocal pillars Die liebe Farbe and Die böse Farbe for Padmore’s excellent diction and his representation of those negative forces circulating inside the mind of the protagonist at this time. Of course, in the beautifully sad and textual personification of the Miller in the famous nineteenth song, Der Müller und der Bach, he touches the heart almost immediately with almost a purity of innocence.

Lewis, who is another exponent in the music of Schubert, gives unfatigable    expressiveness, level of sensitivity and ravishing beauty in partnership at the piano. He simply gives all that a vocal singer can ask for, and presents one of the most convincing case on record in Die liebe Farbe and Die böse Farbe with his slow and foretelling parts.

This is an incredibly powerful, emotionally-drawn and gripping performance in recent years. I salute you, Mr. Padmore and Mr. Lewis.

—Patrick P.L. Lam

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