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Music Review: Tappy performs Schubert's best known song cycle

Eric Tappy.jpg

The most widely known and performed Schubert song cycle, Eric Tappy performs Die Schöne Müllerin (The Fair Miller-maid) dramatically.  The set of poems written by Wilhelm Müller show the journey of a miller that goes wandering in the woods and finds great adventure and tragedy.

Some of the songs sound really beautiful, but to really understand the meanings it is necessary to find an English translation of the poems by Müller.  The poems tell a story of a miller who goes wandering in the woods and finds true love, but the girl is tentative.  Throughout the song cycle the brook taunts the miller with its song, and in anger and despair, the Miller drowns himself in the penultimate song.  The last piece is one of the most beautiful of all of Schubert’s lieders, where the brook sings a lullaby to the recently deceased Miller.

Unlike other composers of lieders (songs generally based on poems), Schubert composes in a way that the piano is just as expressive as the tenor voice.  About half of this song cycle is in strophic form, where lines or stanzas are repeated for emphasis.  This can be difficult for singers to rearticulate the same line with a different emotion or color.  Eric Tappy, a Swiss tenor known for his varied opera and concert choices has no problem with this re-expression. 

Probably the most well known of the lieder in this song cycle is the opening song, Das Wandern, one of the lightest tunes in the cycle.  The best songs on this recording are closer to the end as the story becomes more passionate.  Die bösse farbe (The Hateful color) and Der Müller und der Bach (The Miller and the Brook) are the two lieder that provide a climax for the cycle. 

Though this recording was originally performed in 1974 for a Swiss radio station, Claves made an excellent decision to release this recording in 2011 as Schubert has not and will not go out of style anytime soon.  Tappy and pianist Lifschitz did an excellent job performing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin with emotion and drama.