Schubert mullerin HMM902720

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Die schöne Müllerin D795
Samuel Hasselhorn (baritone)
Ammiel Bushakevitz (piano)
rec. 2022, studio b-sharp, Berlin
Sung texts enclosed, translations available on
Reviewed as download from press preview
Harmonia Mundi HMM902720 [68]

After winning First Prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2018, Samuel Hasselhorn has rapidly become in great demand internationally both as opera singer and as recitalist. There have been a couple of previous lieder discs on Harmonia Mundi, which I haven’t heard, and most recently An Invitation at the Schumanns’, where he took part in four songs by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms (review), and in which I admired the beauty of his voice and the exquisite handling of nuances. I immediately wanted to hear more of him and had my request granted within weeks. The qualities I noted in the Schumann programme were at once confirmed  in Das Wandern, but also something deeper: an intellectual and emotional insight that went to the heart, to the kernel of this much-loved and oft-recorded cycle. Mässig (Moderately) says the score, and that’s the tempo he chooses for the first three stanzas, but for the remaining two he slows down to something approaching Andante, and the effect is magical. This also happens in the next song, Wohin, with similar effect. 

His soft nuances are manifold throughout the cycle, and that doesn’t exclude power and energy. Halt! (track 3) is vital and strong, and Der Jäger –  the crucial song when it dawns upon him that there is a rival, a threat – has all the despair one could wish for. Of course the appearance of the hunter comes as a shock, just after he has had an intimate conversation with the Müllerin in Morgengruss, where one gets the feeling that he bends down and almost touches the girl. The heart-to-heart talk continues in Tränenregen, and spills over to Mein! where he exclaims in rapture, “ the beloved miller girl is mine!” This grows in Mit dem grünen Lautenbande; he reaches a state of ecstasy. Then, BANG! The hunter appears. All happiness is gone; everything is lost; jealousy flares up and follows attacca. This transformation is so brilliantly depicted that one sits flabbergasted, and the singing is so free from exaggerated histrionics; it is controlled but full of feeling. Fischer-Dieskau for example was tremendously intense and expressive, but also a bit over-stated. The concluding songs are marked by the resignation and acceptance of the unavoidable. It is beautiful, sad – Trockne Blumen – and the dialogue between the Müller and the brook so emotive. The postlude after Des Baches Wiegenlied sounds like soft, comforting church bells.

This also reminds me that the admirable Ammiel Bishakevitz is a deeply involved accompanist; the cooperation between the two is seamless and all in all this is a marvellous reading of Die schöne Müllerin that should please every lover of this indestructible masterwork. I have a large collection of recordings, from Gerhard Hüsch in 1935 and Aksel Schiøtz ten years later to the very latest offerings, and to pick a clear winner is impossible, but Samuel Hasselhorn is definitively in the top bracket.

Göran Forsling  

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