All Music Guide, June 2010
Stephen Eddins
Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin
In a fascinating interview in the CD program notes, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann and pianist Helmut Deutsch discuss interpretive issues that Die schöne Müllerin raises, particularly whether the singer is meant to present the point of view of neutral narrator (a view of one of the composer's contemporaries) or the lovesick young miller himself. These performers come down strongly on the side of the singer being the miller, except in the sections that the poet specifically designates as the words of the stream that flows by the mill. Kaufmann's performance powerfully bears out his conviction; he brings an Italianate, even verismo intensity to the passions of the young man at first so hopeful in love, and then shattered by his beloved's rejection. It's not a version that will necessarily please purists who demand fidelity to the performance practice of the composer's era, but other listeners may find the hot-blooded intensity of Kaufmann's passion thrilling. (Even those who might not approve would have to admit that the singer offers thoughtfully considered, reasonable explanations for his interpretive choices.) In Kaufmann's interpretation, the young miller starts out as a true innocent who is dazzled by the power of his first infatuation, and then gradually unravels with the revelation that his love is hopeless. The singer offers this interpretive decision as an explanation for why he wanted to record the cycle while his voice was still young, since this is inherently a young man's music and story. Kaufmann beautifully captures the arc of the story from the carefree joy of the first songs, through a dawning understanding of reality, to complete despair. His voice darkens and roughens as the songs progress, and the seventeenth and eighteenth, "Die böse Farbe" and "Trockne Blumen," have a surprisingly feral abandon. Deutsch, playing a modern instrument, offers a supple and passionate accompaniment that matches Kaufmann's interpretation. The sound of Decca's recording, made at a live 2009 performance in Munich, is clean and clear, with good balance and a warmly present ambience.

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