SCHUBERT: Die Schone Mullerin – Matthias Goerne, baritone/ Christoph Eschenbach, piano – Harmonia mundi 901955, 71:14 ****1/2 [Release date 5/12/09]:
There is little doubt that Wilhelm Muller’s copious amounts of poetry would be forgotten today had it not been for the genius of Franz Schubert. Though the poet could sport some popularity during his day, and was accepted wholeheartedly in many of the best salons, his work was not destined to have a lasting impression, and it is not out of bounds to say that Schubert’s music fills in what is lacking in the poetry. From a collection of rather pastoral wanderings inherent in the texts, Schubert’s brilliant and highly evocative music cements the cracks in what otherwise would be a rather mundane and unimpressive series of sidewalks. Where Muller’s miller meanders through hill and dale reflecting on life and love, Schubert’s incarnation gives him real blood and bones and uses the power of his muse to enliven the spiritual realities behind what may seem everyday emotions and experiences.
There are too many of these recordings to count—my personal favorite being one of Ernst Haefliger on Sony, but there are seventy-odd others, many excellent. Generally the tenor voice recordings have found preference in my ears, but one as sensitively rendered as here by baritone Matthias Goerne and partner Eschenbach must be considered a modern marvel. The light and airy reflections so seamlessly drawn by Schubert’s accompaniments in this cycle can easily be overloaded with undue angst and pathos, with of course the intention of bringing out meaning. A lower voice naturally adds to the gravity of the attempt and can often obscure what is trying to be illumined by the approach. Not so Goerne, whose floating pianos and effervescent phrasing do nothing but bring Schubert’s always-seductive melodic lines to the fore. Eschenbach’s studied and profound understanding of the Schubert’s piano writing completes a sterling effort.
Best ever? It is impossible to make that call. But it is certainly a very fine reading, with fine though somewhat distant sound (which obscures some details of enunciation) to match it. Thoroughly enjoyable!
— Steven Ritter