The Pros and Cons of Michael Schade’s Die schöne Müllerin


AustriaAustria Salzburg Festival (6) – Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin: Michael Schade (tenor), Rudolf Buchbinder (piano). Haus für Mozart, Salzburg, 24.8.2013 (MB)

 Michael Schade’s tenor, especially at this stage in his career, would have to be reckoned something of an acquired taste. His is not a beautiful sound, but the problem goes beyond that; I am not sure that I have heard anyone sing so great a proportion of a recital in his head voice, with a generous helping of quasi-falsetto. That said, he was evidently concerned to recount a narrative, and was dramatically engaged throughout. One probably had to ‘make allowances’, but ultimately there was something moving to his performance as a whole. Likewise Rudolf Buchbinder’s Schubert proved short on charm, even at times on sensitivity. Yet, if one put oneself in the right frame of mind, of receptivity, there were insights to be gleaned.

For instance, the muscular, almost Beethovenian playing with which ‘Das Wandern’ opened may or may not have been apposite, but it certainly had me thinking about the text and possible readings. The lack of sentimentality from both performers here was to a certain degree refreshing, and the way in which both moved to a (relative) hush in the final two stanzas was far from unconvincing. Buchbinder’s accents in ‘Halt!’ might have been closer to what one might have expected, once again, in Beethoven, but the creaking of the mill wheel could also be discerned. Moreover, the instrumental inevitability he imparted to the following ‘Danksagung an den Bach’ offered a strong impression of fatalism to the story’s development, even at this early stage. If only Schade had been more restrained there – and elsewhere – in his use of head voice, though his dramatic faltering in ‘Am Feierabend’ certainly grabbed the attention. The ghostliness and defiance of the final two lines, in which the maiden wishes us all good night, looked forward to ‘Der Doppelgänger’. The quasi-operatic delivery of ‘Ungeduld’, however, seemed misconceived; Schubert’s ‘drama’ is not the same as Verdi’s, still less that of Verdi with a distinctly non-Verdian voice

The Träumerei  of ‘Morgengruß’ was both rapt and apt if one could pass beyond the flawed vocalism – which I could, just about. Greater contrast, from both musicians, however, would have benefited the songs that followed, though ‘Pause’ possessed an undeniable dignity. Sanity was already hanging by a thread, if that, in ‘Der Jäger’. Too much? Perhaps, but as I said above, story-telling, and indeed its explication, were priorities for Schade, and laudable ones at that. Moreover, his vocal plangency in ‘Die liebe Farbe’ truly came into its own. Buchbinder’s ‘simple’ voicing of Schubert’s chords in ‘Trockne Blumen’ was, if short on atmosphere, as generally understood, of a starkness that, perhaps even despite itself, had one rethink one’s response. And if ‘Der Müller und der Bach’ seemed too vocally hysterical even for Winterreise, let alone Die schöne Müllerin, the final song, ‘Des Baches Wiegenlied’ proved a beautiful, cruel lullaby; the unexaggerated quality of Buchbinder’s postlude was certainly not without eloquence.

I am not sure that encores are ever appropriate following this cycle. Certainly Der Musensohn and a very odd, quite misconceived, performance of Die Forelle felt at best unnecessary. Without dwelling unduly on the latter, I shall simply remark that, in Schade’s performance, it served up what must have been the campest trout to have been fished for a good many years.

Mark Berry


Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month