[From something I wrote five years ago.]
Any schöne Müllerin fans out there? The great Schubert cycle about (I had thought) a young man's woes in wooing? Well!... For a new and shocking reevaluation of all that we had thought about this expressive work, read the following review, the very model of music writing, by Richard Dyer, who almost alone is sufficient reason for a classical-music-loving person to live in Boston. (The meat is served beginning in Paragraph 3.)
LENOX - The great German baritone Matthias Goerne met the great English
collaborative pianist Julius Drake for the first time on Tuesday
night. Wednesday night the two men gave a performance of Schubert's
''Die schöne Müllerin" that was one of the great experiences of anyone's musical lifetime.
Monday, Goerne learned that his collaborator Eric Schneider was
ill and would be unable to come to Tanglewood. Goerne has made memorable
recordings with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Alfred Brendel, and Andreas
Haefliger at the keyboard, none of whom would be available on a
day's notice; another colleague with whom Goerne has worked, Graham
Johnson, was in the country but ill. From the list of available
accompanists, Goerne chose Drake, whose work with tenor Ian Bostridge
he had heard and admired. Drake was tracked down in London and arrived in Lenox on Tuesday.
Goerne combines the classical vocal virtues - beauty of tone, smoothness
of line, clarity of diction - with a vivid and original musical
and dramatic intelligence. Not for him is the standard characterization
of Schubert's protagonist as an innocent youth unable to cope with
rejection from the daughter of his boss, the miller. Goerne takes
his cue from a line in the sixth song, ''Der Neugierige'' (''Curiosity'')
- ''These two little words, yes and no, encompass my entire world.''
Goerne makes the protagonist an extremist, maybe even a bipolar
personality. He is an angry and clumsy misfit, an outsider who tells
his story to the brook because no one else will listen. It becomes
clear that his story is a projection with little connection to fact
or truth. Goerne creates savagely ironic comedy from the miller's
daughter's few lines in the texts - he makes her sound totally ordinary,
unaware of the effect of her words, oblivious to the volcanic torment
raging inside this man she hardly notices. The young man is enslaved
to a fantasy, a fantasy that leads him through a series of extreme
emotions and ultimately to suicide.
Goerne communicates this psychodrama in harrowing detail of many
kinds, vocal, visual, and musical, all of them reinforcing each
other. With his shaved head and solid build, the baritone is a striking
presence and a brilliant actor - the recitalist stands before us
only when Goerne pulls at his nose between songs; otherwise all
we see is Schubert's character, on the edge.
He makes daringly long, glowering pauses between some songs; others
rush headlong into each other. Everything is gloriously vocalized,
with glowing tone, ringing high notes, and smooth movement across
the entire dynamic range and around every hairpin turn of the line,
but that is the basis of Goerne's extraordinary art, not its sole
point. Every flicker of thought and feeling brings another rhythm
and coloration, all of them welling up from within - there is no
sense of making ''effects.'' Instead there are rapture, anger, longing,
loneliness, all in their most extreme form.
This is not an interpretation that just any pianist could enter
into, even with a lot of rehearsal - Drake had two hours with Goerne.
Drake's performances with Bostridge are legendary, but Goerne's
approach is very different, and, as a baritone, he sings in different
and lower keys, which present a different set of keyboard difficulties.
Drake may have been flying by the seat of his pants, but his work
was a thrilling demonstration of pianistic skill, attentive listening,
and imaginative sympathy. His playing simultaneously responded to
Schubert's notes, rhythms and harmonies; to every word of Wilhelm
Mueller's texts, and to every nuance of Goerne's delivery - he was
as frightening and as desolate as Goerne, and he made the omnipresent
brook not a passive listener but a force of nature.
Goerne and Drake reached the highest achievement of performing artists:
The baritone made us forget he was singing, the pianist made us
forget he was playing. Instead they took us to where they were,
at the white-hot core of feeling.
This story ran on page 3 of the Boston Globe on 7/13/2001.