Helmut Deutsch is one of the greatest collaborative pianists. His ability to diversify and inflect even the most repetitive figuration truly transformed this Carnegie Hall performance of Die schöne Müllerin with Jonas Kauffman. Deutsch also shone in the introductions and epilogues; the opening bars of ‘Der Neugierige’ have never been more inquisitive. Kaufmann himself was in exceptionally good voice. He reserved his Wagnerian heft for only the most impactful moments and generally worked in softer dynamics and head voice. He possesses a rare ability to float in the upper register without losing the clarity and meaning of the text, and was also impulsive and physically demonstrative when required, presenting Schubert’s cycle with abrupt transitions, from declamation to introspection, and sophisticated rubato.
Die schöne Müllerin has an evolving story-line, although Schubert’s settings are not without lulls during the telling. However, Kaufmann’s less-violent ‘Mein’ than is often heard made the cycle’s mid-point a bit sleepy. One can admire such uncommon delicacy, but it resulted in some monotony; ‘Der Jäger’ felt perfunctory, but the attacca into ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ powerfully reflected the Hunter’s relentlessness. The four encores were all by Schubert: ‘Der Jüngling an der Quelle’ (D300), ‘Der Musensohn’ (D764), ‘Die Forelle’ (D550) and, from Winterreise, ‘Der Lindenbaum’. The audience would have stayed for more.