Florian Boesch / Malcolm Martineau

Franz Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin

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Schubert's songs are transposable almost at will, but those of Schubert's cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Miller's Daughter), an arch-Romantic cycle of passionate attraction giving way to despair, are more closely than others identified with a single voice range, the tenor. Certainly baritones have recorded it before with great success, but it seems to depend on the mood of youthful first love that a tenor is best suited to convey. German baritone Florian Boesch, who has made several noteworthy Schubert recordings, comes up with another one in this Grammy-nominated release. Instead of trying to make himself into a faux tenor with unbearably delicate melodies in the cycle's first half, he goes in an entirely different direction: he makes the young miller's apprentice not a hapless romantic fool but a more intense sort, a goth guy, perhaps. Boesch's voice somewhat resembles that of the late Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (who also recorded Die schöne Müllerin and made it work through pure lyricism), but his edgy interpretation doesn't much resemble those of the great Schubert specialist. He applies a large dynamic range to the cycle, making the youth seem to alternate between moods of sadness and anger, and almost to fall into a catatonic state in "Trockne Blumen," rendered in an odd staccato. Boesch receives empathetic support from pianist Malcolm Martineau. Hearing the quietness of which Boesch is capable (and here he does resemble Fischer-Dieskau) will be worth the price of admission for many listeners, and the originality and sustained intelligence of the cycle as a whole will garner many more. Not a "standard" Die schöne Müllerin, perhaps, but one that demands to be heard.

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