Tranenregen Schubert Analysis Essay

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Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) / Wilhelm Müller (1794 - 1827): Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795

Contents of this page:

Notes on the song cycle:

Texts and translations:

For more information:

About Wihelm Müller (1794 - 1827) and the Poems

Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Müller was born on October 15, 1794 in Dessau in southern Germany. He died in Dessau on October 1, 1827, two weeks shy of his 33rd birthday, but not before he had established a growing reputation as a librarian, critic, editor, translator and poet. As a translator, he made well received translations of Greek and Italian folk poetry into German, modern adaptations of medieval German poetry including the Song of the Nibelungs, and the first translation of Christopher Marlowe's Tragedy of Doctor Faustus. His poems are often scorned for their sentimental style and naïvete, but even his detractors admit of a musicality in his verse.

Müller's first large-scale cycle of poems emerged from a literary game which started in 1816. He joined a circle of artistic friends gathering at the home of a German privy councillor. The salon staged a Liederspiel, or narrative play told in poetry and song. Their subject was the classic folk story of a fickle miller maiden choosing between various suitors. There were a number of contemporary sources for inspiration, including Giovanni Paisiello's comic opera La bella molinara (which translates into German as Die schöne Müllerin and a set of poems written by Germany's greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Der Edelknabe und die Müllerin (The young lord and the miller-maid), Der Junggesell und der Mühlbach (The young journeyman and the mill stream), Der Müllerin Verrat (The miller-maid's betrayal) and Der Müllerin Reue (The miller-maid's remorse). Various members of the circle assumed the roles of the miller maid, a hunter, a gardener and a miller, and each wrote or improvised their own poems and songs. Müller's surname doomed him to play the journeyman miller in the story.

The Liederspiel began to take on a life of its own, perhaps in part because some of the members of the salon used the play to express their own unreciprocated longings for other members of the salon. Soon a pianist and composer was invited to set some of the poems in the Liederspiel to music. The composer chose Müller as his principal collaborator, and this in turn inspired Müller to fashion a complete cycle of poems, mingling the roles of gardener and miller into a single character and telling the entire story from the miller's point of view. Müller completed a first draft by 1817, and the musical settings were published the next year. He expanded the cycle of poems in 1820 and published it in his first major anthology of his own works, the Sieben und Siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (Seventy-Seven Poems from the Posthumous Papers of a Travelling Horn Player), in 1821. Müller later wrote, "... my songs lead but half a life, a paper existence of black-and-white, until music breathes life into them ..." Sadly, Müller most likely died unaware that a schoolmaster named Franz Schubert had breathed vibrant life into this poem cycle, beyond Müller's wildest dreams.

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About Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) and the Song Cycle

Franz Peter Schubert lived from 1797 to 1828 in and around the Austrian capital of Vienna. He spent much of his life redefining the art song, breaking it free of the strophic form in favor of a more dramatic, durchkomponiert (through composed) style. Schubert also strove to make the piano part more than a harmonic accompaniment for the singer but rather an independent voice and sometime Greek chorus in its own right.

Schubert came across the schöne Müllerin poems in late 1822. He had ambitions to create songs with a grander scale and emotional scope. This cycle of linked poems drew Schubert's attention immediately, and occupied much of his attention in the year of 1823. He published this cycle of songs in five volumes in the following year as his Op. 25.

Maurice Brown makes the case that the five books of the original publication divide the story into five acts. Act 1 (songs 1-4) tells the story of a miller, merrily wandering through the countryside until he comes to a brook and is drawn along its path. The brook leads to a mill, whose coziness leads the miller to seek work there. He then offers thanks to the brook for helping him to find work for his hands and work for his heart -- in the form of the mill owner's beautiful daughter.

Act 2 (songs 5-9) describes the miller falling deeper and deeper in love with the miller's daughter. He expresses frustration that at the end of the day, he cannot distinguish himself enough to gain special notice from her. The miller dares not wonder if she loves him too, and tries to learn his fortune by asking the inarticulate brook. He also lacks the nerve to express his feelings to her directly, and impatiently yearns to send signs to her through equally inarticulate nature. He puzzles at her indifference to his morning greeting and even talks to the flowers, hoping they will convey his message of love. He begins to live and die by overinterpreted and misinterpreted signs from the girl, from two simple words: Yes, she loves me; No, she loves me not.

In Act 3 (songs 10-12), the miller experiences a brief ecstatic bliss. He has a tender moment sitting next to her by the brook, then feels ecstatic joy that the girl belongs to him and then experiences paralysis from making poetry or music as his cup runs over.

Trouble comes in the form of jealousy and perceived betrayal in Act 4 (songs 13-17). The metaphor of color emerges here, with white representing the miller, coated in the flour that is ground at the mill and green representing the virile, manly hunter from the wilds of nature. The miller tries to delude himself into thinking that he can learn to like green when the girl asks for his green lute-ribbon, only to fall into stages of anger, jealousy alternating with pride, dejection and bitter disillusionment as the miller's daughter begins flirting with the hunter.

In the final Act (songs 18-20), the miller resigns himself to being unwanted by the miller's daughter (and all without breathing a word to her in conversation!). He speaks again to the withered flowers, hoping to find redemption with the coming of spring and a hope of remorse from the fickle girl. Then the miller talks with the brook, lamenting that flowers, full moon and angels alike mirror his gloom at being broken-hearted. The brook tries to console him by pledging that hope may spring anew if love can conquer pain. Then, the brook sings a lullaby, offering the miller rest, solace and a vision of the infinite in the sleep of death.

To fashion his song cycle, Schubert took some liberties with Müller's texts. He eliminated poems that distanced the audience from the narrative. He also removed poems that more actively involved other characters in the story, placing the entire story in the realm of the miller's imagination, largely independent of the thoughts and actions of those around him. By removing these poems, he brings the singer into the character of the miller, not merely a poet telling stories about a miller, and gives the hapless hero a universal appeal (who, after all, hasn't had a crush on someone and lacked the nerve to express his or her feelings to the object of their affections?).

There are bold strokes in the music as well. The cycle includes some strophic songs, some through-composed dramatic songs, and even songs that blend strophic and dramatic elements. The piano part is called upon to imitate a variety of sounds, from the burbling brook and pounding mill-wheels to the music of a strummed lute, a fife and (fatefully) a hunter's horn. Carefully judged dissonances are used to provide an unspoken answer to the miller's musings. Schubert uses an exquisite layering of shades of loudness to illustrate the text vividly (for example, the first fortissimo does not occur until halfway into the cycle, amid the exuberance of Mein!). Schubert also takes poems that have similar metrical and rhyme schemes and sets them to tunes of similar shape. One striking example is that the words of Mit dem grünen Lautenbande can be sung fairly easily to the tune of Die liebe Farbe and vice versa, with results as striking as they can be amusing. Common musical motifs and harmonic shapes are used to recall previous ideas, throw them into a new light after bitter experience, and tie the cycle together. And finally, there is a harmonic direction to the songs of the cycle: the final song ends a tritone higher than the first one, using a musical destination key as far as one can get from the origin to illustrate the emotional distance covered in the cycle.

Schubert spent his brief life making fruitless attempts to create a hit opera. He died disappointed and largely unknown, but posterity would come to recognize that with Die schöne Müllerin, Schubert perfected the genre of song cycle (and may have created its greatest example on his first try). Schubert also created a miracle of collaboration. Poet and composer, text and music, singer and pianist are true equals in the result, each informing the other, each completing the other, indeed each necessary for the other to make any sense. There's a touching irony that this tale of frustrated love and missed connections has gone on to inspire great partnerships in the time since its creation.

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Texts and Translations

Text: Die schöne Müllerin (Im Winter zu Lesen) (The Fair Miller-Maid, for reading in winter) by Wilhelm Müller, written 1816-1820, published in Sieben und Siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (Seventy-Seven Poems from the Posthumous Papers of a Travelling Horn Player), published by Christian Georg Ackermann in Dessau in 1821 (volume 2 followed in 1824).

Edited by Franz Schubert (hyperlinks that follow in the text show where there are variations in the text between poet, composer or editor, and link either to a German language copy of the complete original poem cycle or a page that compares the Müller original with the Schubert adaptation).

Text changes attributed to Schubert will be designated as "S & L" (short for Sauer & Leidesdorf edition of 1824).


gedichtet von

in Musik gesetzt
für eine Singstimme mit Pianoforte Begleitung
Carl Freyherrn von Schönstein
gewidmet von

25 Werk

poems by

set to Music
for One Voice with Pianoforte Accompaniment
dedicated to
Karl, Baron of Schönstein

Op. 25

also known as Müllerlieder (Müller/Miller Songs), Franz Peter Schubert, D.795, composed in 1823, published in five volumes in 1824 by Sauer & Leidesdorf, Vienna as Op. 25.

First public performance: Julius Christian Stockhausen, Vienna, May 4, 1856.

Translation: Emily Ezust, adapted by James Liu.

Müller's cycle of poems begins with Der Dichter, als Prolog (The Poet's Prologue), which in the manner of a Shakespeare comedy, sets an ironical distance between the poet and audience and the events being told. Schubert omits this poem from the cycle.

1. Das Wandern

Mäßig geschwind Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, Das Wandern! Das muß ein schlechter Müller sein, Dem niemals fiel das Wandern ein, Das Wandern. Vom Wasser haben wir's gelernt, Vom Wasser! Das hat nicht Rast bei Tag und Nacht, Ist stets auf Wanderschaft bedacht, Das Wasser. Das sehn wir auch den Rädern ab, Den Rädern! Die gar nicht gerne stille stehn, Die sich mein Tag nicht müde gehn, Die Räder. Die Steine selbst, so schwer sie sind, Die Steine! Sie tanzen mit den muntern Reihn Und wollen gar noch schneller sein, Die Steine. O Wandern, Wandern, meine Lust, O Wandern! Herr Meister und Frau Meisterin, Laßt mich in Frieden weiter ziehn Und wandern.

1. Wandering

Moderately fast Wandering is the miller's joy, wandering! He must be a miserable miller, who never likes to wander. Wandering! From the water have we learned this, from the water! It does not rest by day or night, it's always thinking of its journey, the water. We see this also with the wheels, the wheels! They don't like to stand still, they drive themselves all day without tiring. The wheels. The stones themselves, heavy though they are, the stones! They join in the cheerful dance, and want to go yet faster. The stones! Oh, wandering, wandering, my joy, oh, wandering! Oh, Master and Mistress, let me continue in peace, and wander!

2. Wohin?

Mäßig Ich hört' ein Bächlein rauschen Wohl aus dem Felsenquell, Hinab zum Tale rauschen So frisch und wunderhell. Ich weiß nicht, wie mir wurde, Nicht, wer den Rat mir gab, Ich mußte auch hinunter Mit meinem Wanderstab. Hinunter und immer weiter Und immer dem Bache nach, Und immer frischer rauschte Und immer heller der Bach. Ist das denn meine Straße? O Bächlein, sprich, wohin? Du hast mit deinem Rauschen Mir ganz berauscht den Sinn. Was sag' ich denn vom Rauschen? Das kann kein Rauschen sein: Es singen wohl die Nixen Tief unten ihren Reihn. Laß singen, Gesell, laß rauschen Und wandre fröhlich nach! Es gehn ja Mühlenräder In jedem klaren Bach.

2. Where to?

Moderate I hear a brooklet rushing right out of the rock's spring, Down into the valley it rushes, so fresh and wondrously bright. I know not, how I felt this, nor did I know who gave me the idea; I must go down with my wanderer's staff. Down and always farther, and always the brook after; and always crisply rushing, and always bright is the brook. Is this then my road? O, brooklet, speak! Where to? You have with your rushing entirely intoxicated my senses. Why do I speak of rushing? That can't really be rushing: perhaps the water-nymphs are singing rounds down in the deep. Let them sing, my friend, let it rush, and wander joyously after! Mill-wheels turn in each clear brook.

3. Halt!

Nicht zu geschwind Eine Mühle seh' ich blinken Aus den Erlen heraus, Durch Rauschen und Singen Bricht Rädergebraus. Ei willkommen, ei willkommen, Süßer Mühlengesang! Und das Haus, wie so traulich! Und die Fenster, wie blank! Und die Sonne, wie helle Vom Himmel sie scheint! Ei, Bächlein, liebes Bächlein, War es also gemeint?

3. Halt!

Not too fast I see a mill gleaming out from the alders; Through the rushing and singing bursts wheels' clatter. Hey, welcome, welcome! Sweet mill-song! And the house, how comfortable! And the windows, how clean! And the sun, how brightly from Heaven it shines! Hey, brooklet, dear brooklet, Was this what you meant?

4. Danksagung an den Bach

Etwas langsam War es also gemeint, Mein rauschender Freund? Dein Singen, dein Klingen, War es also gemeint? Zur Müllerin hin! So lautet der Sinn. Gelt, hab' ich's verstanden? Zur Müllerin hin! Hat sie dich geschickt? Oder hast mich berückt? Das möcht ich noch wissen, Ob sie dich geschickt. Nun wie's auch mag sein, Ich gebe mich drein: Was ich such', hab' ich funden, Wie's immer mag sein. Nach Arbeit ich frug, Nun hab ich genug Für die Hände, fürs Herze Vollauf genug!

4. Giving Thanks to the Brook

A little slow Was this what you meant? my rushing friend? Your singing and your ringing? Was this what you meant? "To the Millermaid!" it seems to say... Right? Have I understood? "To the Millermaid!" Has she sent you? or am I deluding myself? I would like to know, if she sent you. Now, however it may be, I commit myself! What I sought, I have found, however it may be. For work I ask, now, have I enough for my hands, for my heart? Completely enough!

5. Am Feierabend

Ziemlich geschwind Hätt' ich tausend Arme zu rühren! Könnt' ich brausend Die Räder führen! Könnt' ich wehen Durch alle Haine! Könnt' ich drehen Alle Steine! Daß die schöne Müllerin Merkte meinen treuen Sinn! Ach, wie ist mein Arm so schwach! Was ich hebe, was ich trage, Was ich schneide, was ich schlage, Jeder Knappe tut mir's nach. Und da sitz' ich in der großen Runde, In der stillen kühlen Feierstunde, Und der Meister spricht zu allen: Euer Werk hat mir gefallen; Und das liebe Mädchen sagt Allen eine gute Nacht. Etwas geschwinder

5. On the Restful Evening

Quite fast If only I had a thousand arms to move! If I could loudly drive the wheels! If I could blow through all the groves! If I could turn all the stones! So that the beautiful Millermaid Would notice my faithful meaning! Ah, why is my arm so weak? What I lift, what I carry, what I cut, what I beat, every lad does the same as me. And there I sit in the great gathering, In the quiet, cool hour of rest, And the master speaks to us all: "Your work has pleased me;" And the lovely maiden says "To all, good night." Somewhat faster

6. Der Neugierige

Langsam Ich frage keine Blume, Ich frage keinen Stern, Sie können mir alle nicht sagen, Was ich erführ so gern. Ich bin ja auch kein Gärtner, Die Sterne stehn zu hoch; Mein Bächlein will ich fragen, Ob mich mein Herz belog. Sehr langsam O Bächlein meiner Liebe, Wie bist du heut' so stumm? Will ja nur eines wissen, Ein Wörtchen um und um. Ja, heißt das eine Wörtchen, Das andre heißet Nein, Die beiden Wörtchen schließen Die ganze Welt mir ein. O Bächlein meiner Liebe, Was bist du wunderlich! Will's ja nicht weiter sagen, Sag', Bächlein, liebt sie mich?

6. Curiosity

Slow I ask no flower, I ask no star; None of them can tell me, what I would like to know. I am surely no gardener, the stars stand too high; My brooklet will I ask, if my heart has lied to me. Very slow O brooklet of my love, Why are you so quiet today? I want to know just one thing - one little word again and again. "Yes" is one little word; the other is "No", The two little words enclose the entire world to me. O brooklet of my love, Why are you so strange? I'll surely not repeat it; Tell me, o brooklet, does she love me?
Müller follows with another poem, Das Mühlenleben (Life at the Mill) (click on the link and page down several pages to find a text and translation), which takes ten stanzas to describe the miller-maid's role in the running of the mill. Schubert omitted this poem completely from his song cycle.

7. Ungeduld

Etwas geschwind(in einer autographen Kopie: Lebhaft) Ich schnitt' es gern in alle Rinden ein, Ich grüb' es gern in jeden Kieselstein, Ich möcht' es sä'n auf jedes frische Beet Mit Kressensamen, der es schnell verrät, Auf jeden weißen Zettel möcht' ich's schreiben: Dein ist mein Herz, und soll es ewig bleiben. Ich möcht' mir ziehen einen jungen Star, Bis daß er spräch' die Worte rein und klar, Bis er sie spräch' mit meines Mundes Klang, Mit meines Herzens vollem, heißem Drang; Dann säng' er hell durch ihre Fensterscheiben: Dein ist mein Herz, und soll es ewig bleiben. Den Morgenwinden möcht' ich's hauchen ein, Ich möcht' es säuseln durch den regen Hain; Oh, leuchtet' es aus jedem Blumenstern! Trüg' es der Duft zu ihr von nah und fern! Ihr Wogen, könnt' ihr nichts als Räder treiben? Dein ist mein Herz, und soll es ewig bleiben. Ich meint', es müßt' in meinen Augen stehn, Auf meinen Wangen müßt' man's brennen sehn, Zu lesen wär's auf meinem stummen Mund, Ein jeder Atemzug gäb's laut ihr kund, Und sie merkt nichts von all' dem bangen Treiben: Dein ist mein Herz, und soll es ewig bleiben!

7. Impatience

Somewhat fast(in one autograph copy: Lively) I would carve it fondly in the bark of trees, I would chisel it eagerly into each pebble, I would sow it upon each fresh flower-bed with water-cress seeds, which it would quickly disclose; On each white piece of paper I'd write: Yours is my heart, and so shall it remain forever. I would like to raise a young starling, until he speaks the words pure and clear, until he speaks to her with my mouth's sound, with my heart's full, warm impulse; Then he would sing brightly through her windowpanes: Yours is my heart, and so shall it remain forever. I would like to breathe it into the morning breezes, I would like to whisper it through the rainy grove; Oh, if only it shone from each flower-star! then it would carry the scent to her from near and far! You waves, can you nothing but wheels drive? Yours is my heart, and so shall it remain forever. I thought, it must be visible in my eyes, On my cheeks it must be seen burning; It must be readable on my mute mouth, every breath would make it loudly known, And yet she notices nothing of all my yearning feelings. Yours is my heart, and so shall it remain forever.

8. Morgengruß

Mäßig Guten Morgen, schöne Müllerin! Wo steckst du gleich das Köpfchen hin, Als wär' dir was geschehen? Verdrießt dich denn mein Gruß so schwer? Verstört dich denn mein Blick so sehr? So muß ich wieder gehen. O laß mich nur von ferne stehn, Nach deinem lieben Fenster sehn, Von ferne, ganz von ferne! Du blondes Köpfchen, komm hervor! Hervor aus eurem runden Tor, Ihr blauen Morgensterne! Ihr schlummertrunknen Äugelein, Ihr taubetrübten Blümelein, Was scheuet ihr die Sonne? Hat es die Nacht so gut gemeint, Daß ihr euch schließt und bückt und weint Nach ihrer stillen Wonne? Nun schüttelt ab der Träume Flor Und hebt euch frisch und frei empor In Gottes hellen Morgen! Die Lerche wirbelt in der Luft, Und aus dem tiefen Herzen ruft Die Liebe Leid und Sorgen.

8. Morning Greetings

Moderate Good morning, beautiful millermaid! Why do you so quickly turn your little head, as if something has happened to you? Do you dislike my greetings so badly? Does my glance disturb you so much? Then I must go on again. Just let me stand from afar, watching your dear window, from afar, from quite far away! You little blonde head, come out! come out from your round gate, you blue morning-stars! You slumber-drunk little eyes, you dew-laden little flowers, why do you shy from the sun? Has night been so good to you that you close and bow and weep for her quiet joy? Now shake off the gauze of dreams and rise, fresh and free in God's bright morning! The lark warbles in the sky; And from the heart's depths, Love calls away suffering and worries.

9. Des Müllers Blumen

Mäßig Am Bach viel kleine Blumen stehn, Aus hellen blauen Augen sehn; Der Bach, der ist des Müllers Freund, Und hellblau Liebchens Auge scheint, Drum sind es meine Blumen. Dicht unter ihrem Fensterlein, Da will ich pflanzen die Blumen ein, Da ruft ihr zu, wenn alles schweigt, Wenn sich ihr Haupt zum Schlummer neigt, Ihr wißt ja, was ich meine. Und wenn sie tät die Äuglein zu Und schläft in süßer, süßer Ruh', Dann lispelt als ein Traumgesicht Ihr zu: Vergiß, vergiß mein nicht! Das ist es, was ich meine. Und schließt sie früh die Laden auf, Dann schaut mit Liebesblick hinauf: Der Tau in euren Äugelein, Das sollen meine Tränen sein, Die will ich auf euch weinen.

9. The Miller's Flowers

Moderate By the brook, many small flowers stand; Out of bright blue eyes they look; The brook - it is the miller's friend - and light blue my darling's eyes shine; therefore, these are my flowers. Right under her little window, there I will plant these flowers, there you will call to her when all is quiet, when her head leans to slumber, you know what I intend you to say! And when she closes her little eyes, And sleeps in sweet, sweet rest, Then whisper, like a dreamy vision: to her: "Forget, forget me not!" That is what I mean. And when she opens the shutters up early, then look with a loving gaze up: The dew in your little eyes shall be my tears, which I will shed for you.

10. Tränenregen

Ziemlich langsam Wir saßen so traulich beisammen Im kühlen Erlendach, Wir schauten so traulich zusammen Hinab in den rieselnden Bach. Der Mond war auch gekommen, Die Sternlein hinterdrein, Und schauten so traulich zusammen In den silbernen Spiegel hinein. Ich sah nach keinem Monde, Nach keinem Sternenschein, Ich schaute nach ihrem Bilde, Nach ihren Augen allein. Und sahe sie nicken und blicken Herauf aus dem seligen Bach, Die Blümlein am Ufer, die blauen, Sie nickten und blickten ihr nach. Und in den Bach versunken Der ganze Himmel schien Und wollte mich mit hinunter In seine Tiefe ziehn. Und über den Wolken und Sternen, Da rieselte munter der Bach Und rief mit Singen und Klingen: Geselle, Geselle, mir nach! Da gingen die Augen mir über, Da ward es im Spiegel so kraus; Sie sprach: Es kommt ein Regen, Ade, ich geh' nach Haus.

10. Rain of Tears

Quite slow We sat so cozily together under the cool alder arbor, We gazed so cozily together down into the murmuring brook. The moon was already out, the stars afterwards, and we gazed so cozily together into the silver mirror there. I gazed at no moon, not at the star's shine; I looked only at her image, at her eyes alone. And I saw her nod and gaze reflected in the blissful brook, The flowers on the bank, the blue ones, they nodded and gazed right back. And in the brook it seemed all of the heavens plunged; And it wanted to pull me down into its depths as well. And over the clouds and stars, there murmured the brook and called with singing and ringing: "Fellow, fellow, follow me!" Then my eyes filled with tears, and made the mirror ripple: She said: "It's raining, Farewell, I am going home."

11. Mein!

Mäßig geschwind Bächlein, laß dein Rauschen sein! Räder, stellt euer Brausen ein! All' ihr muntern Waldvögelein, Groß und klein, Endet eure Melodein! Durch den Hain Aus und ein Schalle heut' ein Reim allein: Die geliebte Müllerin ist mein! Mein! Frühling, sind das alle deine Blümelein? Sonne, hast du keinen hellern Schein? Ach, so muß ich ganz allein Mit dem seligen Worte mein Unverstanden in der weiten Schöpfung sein!

11. Mine!

Moderately fast Little brook, let your rushing be! Wheels, cease your roaring! All you merry woodbirds, large and small, end your melodies! Through the grove, out and in, let only one song be heard today: The beloved millermaid is mine! Mine! Spring, are these all the flowers you have? Sun, have you no brighter shine? Ah, so I must be all alone With my blissful word, mine misunderstood by all of Creation!

12. Pause

Ziemlich geschwind Meine Laute hab' ich gehängt an die Wand, Hab' sie umschlungen mit einem grünen Band - Ich kann nicht mehr singen, mein Herz ist zu voll, Weiß nicht, wie ich's in Reime zwingen soll. Meiner Sehnsucht allerheißesten Schmerz Durft' ich aushauchen in Liederscherz, Und wie ich klagte so süß und fein, Glaubt' ich doch, mein Leiden wär' nicht klein. Ei, wie groß ist wohl meines Glückes Last, Daß kein Klang auf Erden es in sich faßt? Nun, liebe Laute, ruh' an dem Nagel hier! Und weht ein Lüftchen über die Saiten dir, Und streift eine Biene mit ihren Flügeln dich, Da wird mir so bange, und es durchschauert mich. Warum ließ ich das Band auch hängen so lang? Oft fliegt's um die Saiten mit seufzendem Klang. Ist es der Nachklang meiner Liebespein? Soll es das Vorspiel neuer Lieder sein?

12. Pause

Quite fast I've hung my lute on the wall, I've tied it there with a green band; I can sing no more, my heart is too full. I know not how to compel the rhymes, the searing pain of my yearning I once could exhale in jesting songs; And when I complained, so sweet and fine, I believed my sorrows weren't small. Ah, but how great is my joy's weight, that no sound on earth can contain it? Now, dear lute, rest on this nail here! And if a breeze flutters over your strings, And if a bee grazes you with its wings, It makes me anxious and I shudder through and through. Oh, why have I left that ribbon hanging there so long? Often it stirs the strings with a sighing sound. Is it the echo of my lovelorn pining? Shall it be the prologue to new songs?

13. Mit dem grünen Lautenbande

Mäßig »Schad' um das schöne grüne Band, Daß es verbleicht hier an der Wand, Ich hab' das Grün so gern!« So sprachst du, Liebchen, heut zu mir; Gleich knüpf' ich's ab und send' es dir: Nun hab' das Grüne gern! Ist auch dein ganzer Liebster weiß, Soll Grün doch haben seinen Preis, Und ich auch hab' es gern. Weil unsre Lieb' ist immergrün, Weil grün der Hoffnung Fernen blühn, Drum haben wir es gern. Nun schlinge in die Locken dein Das grüne Band gefällig ein, Du hast ja's Grün so gern. Dann weiß ich, wo die Hoffnung wohnt, Dann weiß ich, wo die Liebe thront, Dann hab' ich's Grün erst gern.

13. With the Green Lute-ribbon

Moderate "It's a pity that pretty green ribbon fades here on the wall; I am so fond of green!" So you said, sweetheart, today to me; I shall untie it and send it to you: Now have your beloved green! Even though your lover is white (with flour), Green shall still have its praise; And I also like green. Because our love is evergreen, because Hope's far reaches bloom green, we are both fond of green. Now entwine in your locks this green ribbon winningly; you are indeed so fond of green. Then I will know where Hope dwells, then I will know where Love is enthroned, then I will be really fond of green.

14. Der Jäger

Geschwind Was sucht denn der Jäger am Mühlbach hier? Bleib', trotziger Jäger, in deinem Revier! Hier gibt es kein Wild zu jagen für dich, Hier wohnt nur ein Rehlein, ein zahmes, für mich, Und willst du das zärtliche Rehlein sehn, So laß deine Büchsen im Walde stehn, Und laß deine kläffenden Hunde zu Haus, Und laß auf dem Horne den Saus und Braus, Und schere vom Kinne das struppige Haar, Sonst scheut sich im Garten das Rehlein fürwahr. Doch besser, du bliebest im Walde dazu, Und ließest die Mühlen und Müller in Ruh. Was taugen die Fischlein im grünen Gezweig? Was will den das Eichhorn im bläulichen Teich? Drum bleibe, du trotziger Jäger, im Hain, Und laß mich mit meinen drei Rädern allein; Und willst meinem Schätzchen dich machen beliebt, So wisse, mein Freund, was ihr Herzchen betrübt: Die Eber, die kommen zur Nacht aus dem Hain Und brechen in ihren Kohlgarten ein Und treten und wühlen herum in dem Feld: Die Eber, die schieß, du Jägerheld!

14. The Hunter

Quick What, then, does the hunter seek at the mill-brook here? Remain, presumptuous hunter, in your own hunting-grounds! Here there is no game to hunt for you; Here dwells only a little doe, a tame one, for me. And if you wish to see the tender doe, then leave your guns in the woods, and leave your barking dogs at home, and stop the horn from blowing and hooting, and clip from your chin your shaggy hair; otherwise the doe will hide itself away in the garden. Or better yet, remain in the forest and leave the mills and the miller in peace! What use are fishes in green branches? What would the squirrel want in a blue pond? Therefore stay, presumptuous hunter, in the meadow, and leave me with my three wheels alone! And if you'd like to be loved by my little treasure, then know, friend, what troubles her heart: The boars, they come at night from the grove and break into her cabbage-garden and tread and wallow around in the field. The boars - shoot them, you hunter-hero.

15. Eifersucht und Stolz

Geschwind(im Autograph keine Tempobezeichnung) Wohin so schnell, so kraus und wild, mein lieber Bach? Eilst du voll Zorn dem frechen Bruder Jäger nach? Kehr' um, kehr' um, und schilt erst deine Müllerin Für ihren leichten, losen, kleinen Flattersinn. Sahst du sie gestern abend nicht am Tore stehn, Mit langem Halse nach der großen Straße sehn? Wenn vom den Fang der Jäger lustig zieht nach Haus, Da steckt kein sittsam Kind den Kopf zum Fenster 'naus. Geh', Bächlein, hin und sag ihr das; doch sag ihr nicht, Hörst du, kein Wort von meinem traurigen Gesicht. Sag' ihr: Er schnitzt bei mir sich eine Pfeif' aus Rohr Und bläst den Kindern schöne Tänz' und Lieder vor.

15. Jealousy and Pride

Quick(in the Autograph, no tempo indication) Where so quickly, so ruffled and wild, my dear brook? Do you hurry full of anger after the arrogant hunter? Turn around, turn around, and scold first your millermaid, for her light, loose, little flirtatious mind, Didn't you see her standing at the gate last night, craning her neck toward the large street? When from the catch, the hunter returns gaily home, then no decent girl sticks her head out the window. Go, brooklet, and tell her that; but say nothing, do you hear? Not a word about my sad face. Tell her: he is carving a pipe out of a reed And is playing pretty dances and songs for the children.
Müller follows with another poem, Erster Schmerz, letzter Scherz (First Pain, Last Joy) (click on the link and page down several pages to find a text and translation), which describes the hapless miller's bitterness over his perceived betrayal in ten stanzas recalling elements of the preceding poems. Schubert omitted this poem completely from his song cycle.

16. Die liebe Farbe

Etwas langsam In Grün will ich mich kleiden, In grüne Tränenweiden: Mein Schatz hat's Grün so gern. Will suchen einen Zypressenhain, Eine Heide von grünem Rosmarein: Mein Schatz hat's Grün so gern. Wohlauf zum fröhlichen Jagen! Wohlauf durch Heid' und Hagen! Mein Schatz hat's Jagen so gern. Das Wild, das ich jage, das ist der Tod; Die Heide, die heiß' ich die Liebesnot: Mein Schatz hat's Jagen so gern. Grabt mir ein Grab im Wasen, Deckt mich mit grünem Rasen: Mein Schatz hat's Grün so gern. Kein Kreuzlein schwarz, kein Blümlein bunt, Grün, Alles grün so rings und rund! Mein Schatz hat's Grün so gern.

16. The Favorite Color

A little slow In green will I dress myself, In green weeping willows; My sweetheart is so fond of green. I'll look for a cypress thicket, a hedge of green rosemary; My sweetheart is so fond of green. Away to the joyous hunt! Away through heath and hedge! My sweetheart is so fond of hunting. The beast that I hunt is Death; the heath is what I call love's affliction. My sweetheart is so fond of green. Dig me a grave in the turf, cover me with green grass: My sweetheart is so fond of green. No black cross, no colorful flowers, green, everything green all around! My sweetheart is so fond of green.

17. Die böse Farbe

Ziemlich geschwind Ich möchte ziehn in die Welt hinaus, Hinaus in die weite Welt; Wenn's nur so grün, so grün nicht wär Da draußen in Wald und Feld! Ich möchte die grünen Blätter all Pflücken von jedem Zweig, Ich möchte die grünen Gräser all Weinen ganz totenbleich. Ach Grün, du böse Farbe du, Was siehst mich immer an, So stolz, so keck, so schadenfroh, Mich armen weißen Mann? Ich möchte liegen vor ihrer Tür Im Sturm und Regen und Schnee. Und singen ganz leise bei Tag und Nacht Das eine Wörtchen: Ade! Horch, wenn im Wald ein Jagdhorn schallt, Da klingt ihr Fensterlein, Und schaut sie auch nach mir nicht aus, Darf ich doch schauen hinein. O binde von der Stirn dir ab Das grüne, grüne Band; Ade, ade! Und reiche mir Zum Abschied deine Hand!

17. The Hateful Color

Quite fast I'd like to go out into the world, out into the wide world; If only it weren't so green, so green, out there in the forest and field! I would like to pluck all the green leaves from every branch, I would like to weep on all the grass until it is deathly pale. Ah, Green, you hateful color, you, why do you always look at me, wo proud, so bold, so gloating, me just a poor, flour-covered man? I would like to lay in front of her door, in the storm and rain and snow. And sing so softly by day and by night this one little word: farewell! Hark, when in the forest a hunter's horn sounds - her window clicks! And she looks out, but not for me; yet I can certainly look in. O do unwind from your brow that green, green ribbon; Farewell, farewell! And give me your hand in parting!
Müller follows with another poem, Blümlein Vergißmein (Little Forget-me Flower) (click on the link and page down several pages to find a text and translation), an eight-stanza description of the miller feeling abandoned and betrayed. Even flowers mock him, after he hoped that they would bring his message of love to the miller-maid. Schubert omitted this poem completely from his song cycle.

18. Trockne Blumen

Ziemlich langsam Ihr Blümlein alle, Die sie mir gab, Euch soll man legen Mit mir in's Grab. Wie seht ihr alle Mich an so weh, Als ob ihr wüßtet, Wie mir gescheh'? Ihr Blümlein alle, Wie welk, wie blaß? Ihr Blümlein alle, Wovon so naß? Ach, Tränen machen Nicht maiengrün, Machen tote Liebe Nicht wieder blühn. Und Lenz wird kommen, Und Winter wird gehn, Und Blümlein werden Im Grase stehn. Und Blümlein liegen In meinem Grab, Die Blümlein alle, Die sie mir gab. Und wenn sie wandelt Am Hügel vorbei Und denkt im Herzen: Der meint' es treu! Dann, Blümlein alle, Heraus, heraus! Der Mai ist kommen, Der Winter ist aus.

18. Dry flowers

Quite slow All you little flowers, that she gave me, you shall lie with me in my grave. Why do you all look at me so sadly, as if you had known what would happen to me? You little flowers all, how wilted, how pale! You little flowers all, why so moist? Ah, tears will not make the green of May, will not make dead love bloom again. And Spring will come, and Winter will go, and flowers will grow in the grass. And flowers will lie in my grave, all the flowers that she gave me. And when she wanders past the hill and thinks in her heart: His feelings were true! Then, all you little flowers, come out, come out, May has come, winter is over.

19. Der Müller und der Bach

MäßigDer Müller: Wo ein treues Herze In Liebe vergeht, Da welken die Lilien Auf jedem Beet; Da muß in die Wolken Der Vollmond gehn, Damit seine Tränen Die Menschen nicht sehn; Da halten die Englein Die Augen sich zu Und schluchzen und singen Die Seele zur Ruh'. Der Bach: Und wenn sich die Liebe Dem Schmerz entringt, Ein Sternlein, ein neues, Am Himmel erblinkt; Da springen drei Rosen, Halb rot und halb weiß, Die welken nicht wieder, Aus Dornenreis. Und die Engelein schneiden Die Flügel sich ab Und gehn alle Morgen Zur Erde herab. Der Müller: Ach Bächlein, liebes Bächlein, Du meinst es so gut: Ach Bächlein, aber weißt du, Wie Liebe tut? Ach unten, da unten Die kühle Ruh'! Ach Bächlein, liebes Bächlein, So singe nur zu.

19. The Miller and the Brook

ModerateThe Miller: Where a true heart wastes away in love, there wilt the lilies in every bed; Then into the clouds must the full moon go, so that her tears men don't see; Then angels shut their eyes and sob and sing the soul to its rest. The Brook: And when Love conquers pain, a little star, a new one, shines in Heaven; then spring up three roses, half red and half white, which never wilt, on thorny stalks. And the angels cut their wings off and go every morning down to Earth. The Miller: Ah, brooklet, dear brook, you mean it so well, ah, brooklet, but do you know, what love does? Ah, under, yes under, is cool rest! Ah, brooklet, dear brook, please just sing on.

20. Des Baches Wiegenlied

Mäßig Gute Ruh', gute Ruh'! Tu' die Augen zu! Wandrer, du müder, du bist zu Haus. Die Treu' ist hier, Sollst liegen bei mir, Bis das Meer will trinken die Bächlein aus. Will betten dich kühl Auf weichen Pfühl In dem blauen kristallenen Kämmerlein. Heran, heran, Was wiegen kann, Woget und wieget den Knaben mir ein! Wenn ein Jagdhorn schallt Aus dem grünen Wald, Will ich sausen und brausen wohl um dich her. Blickt nicht herein, Blaue Blümelein! Ihr macht meinem Schläfer die Träume so schwer. Hinweg, hinweg Von dem Mühlensteg, Böses Mägdelein, daß ihn dein Schatten nicht weckt! Wirf mir herein Dein Tüchlein fein, Daß ich die Augen ihm halte bedeckt! Gute Nacht, gute Nacht! Bis alles wacht, Schlaf' aus deine Freude, schlaf' aus dein Leid! Der Vollmond steigt, Der Nebel weicht, Und der Himmel da droben, wie ist er so weit!

20. The Brook's Lullaby

Moderate Good rest, good rest, Close your eyes! Wanderer, tired one, you are home. Fidelity is here, you shall lie by me, until the sea drinks the brooklet dry. I will bed you down on a soft pillow, in the blue crystal room, come, come, whatever can lull, rock and lap my boy to sleep! When a hunting-horn sounds from the green forest, I will roar and rush around you. Don't look in, blue flowerets! You make my sleeper's dreams so troubled! Away, away from the mill-path, hateful girl, that your shadow might not wake him. Throw in to me your fine handkerchief, that I may cover his eyes with it! Good night, good night, until all awake, sleep out your joy, sleep out your pain! The full moon climbs, the mist fades away, and the heavens above, how wide they are!
Müller concludes with Der Dichter, als Epilog (The Poet's Epilogue) (click on the link and page down several pages to find a text and translation), another direct address from the poet, creating the same ironical distance from the subject matter provided in the Prologue. Schubert omitted this poem completely from his song cycle.

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Getting a Score of the Song Cycle

One might imagine that a copy of the sheet music to Die schöne Müllerin would be a simple enough matter. A detail-oriented person like me would make a beeline for the Urtext edition, but it turns out that this search is not quite so simple here. The autograph manuscript is lost, except for Eifersucht und Stolz, so there is no way to know for certain what Schubert's final intentions were with every last word and note in the score.

Schubert was out of town and unable to return to Vienna to do proofreading when Sauer & Leidesdorf prepared the first printed edition in 1824. A number of typographical errors and mistakes slipped through in this first edition, as a result. A second edition was published in 1830 by Anton Diabelli in Vienna. This edition came out two years after Schubert's death, and the composer almost certainly had no input into this set. Moreover, the Diabelli edition has a number of significant changes from the Sauer & Leidesdorf edition, probably a result of the intervention of Schubert's singing partner, baritone Johann Michael Vogl. Some songs are transposed down and some of the trickier lines are smoothed out, perhaps to better suit Vogl's aging voice. Some of the changes, including the wholesale addition of measures in Eifersucht und Stolz and unusual ornamentations probably reflect Vogl's personal tastes (and give one an insight into Schubert's ambivalent relationship with his champion).

There are only two serious critical editions worth considering, from C.F. Peters and a joint production of Bärenreiter and G. Henle Verlag. However, even these two editions do not agree on all points. The differences between the scores aren't so major as to effect a radical change in how the song cycle is heard, but there are often small differences in how the text is aligned with the notes, confusion in some spots as to whether Schubert intended to place an accent mark or a decrescendo (which would have a very different effect), and a variety of versions of the texts for the poems (see the hyperlinks embedded in the texts above for all the ones I know of). Moreover, for singers who cannot sing the songs in their original keys, there are arrangements in which the parts are transposed down. If every song is transposed by the same interval, then key relationships between songs are preserved (including, for instance, the tritone distance between the first and final songs), but it sometimes makes for a piano part that sits awkwardly on the hands and can sometimes be uncomfortable to sing. And Schubert apparently did not intend for all the key relationships to be preserved as written (see below), which leaves the singer and pianist needing to decide what compromise they will strike between practical considerations and historical accuracy.

The Peters edition was edited by Max Friedländer. Friedländer had access to autograph manuscripts of Ungeduld, Morgengruß and Des Müllers Blumen. These manuscripts were handwritten transpositions that Schubert personally made to accommodate the voice range of the cycle's dedicatee, Baron Freiherr von Schönstein. The songs are not transposed the same distance: Ungeduld is transposed from A to F major, Morgengruß from C to A major and Des Müllers Blumen is transposed from A to G major. Furthermore, on the manuscript for Des Müllers Blumen, Schubert scrawled a margin note indicating that the accompaniment can be played an octave higher, if necessary. (These manuscripts are now in the Vienna City Library and an on-line archive offers scanned versions of these three autographs.

Friedländer's edition also incorporates some of the stylistic suggestions added by Michael Vogl, and the latest edition published by C.F. Peters (and edited by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elmar Budde) reflects this practical, performer's approach to editing. Page turns are kept to a minimum, though unfortunately sometimes multiple lines of music are crammed onto a single page. The arrangements for lower voices also transpose songs down variable distances, which often makes them easier to sing, but sometimes spoils important harmonic relationships between songs. The latest edition does have brief critical notes in German and English.

An electronic copy of an older Peters edition of all of the Schubert songs, now in the public domain, is available in printer-ready PDF files on a CD-ROM from Theodore Presser Co. Another on-line copy can be found in the on-line music library at Indiana University School of Music. This is easily the most economical way to get your hands on all of the Schubert songs in their original keys, but there are no lower-voice arrangements and no editorial notes. Moreover, the two newer editions have some editorial changes that aren't in this edition.

The firm of Breitkopf & Härtel published the other important critical edition, as part of the first complete critical edition of Schubert's music. Editors Eusebius Mandyczewski and Johannes Brahms returned to original source material to prepare their edition, which unfortunately has reinstated some typographical errors from the 1824 edition in addition to removing some of Vogl's interpolations. The latest descendant of this edition was published by Bärenreiter and Henle as part of the New Schubert-Edition and edited by Walther Dürr and Arnold Feil. This edition is available in a thin volume devoted solely to the song cycle, with minimal English language documentation. In April 2005, Bärenreiter also brought out volume 1 of their practical performing edition of Schubert songs (Die schöne Müllerin closes this volume, but many other popular Schubert songs are in this set), printed on larger sheets of paper, laid out with better placed page breaks, and with texts and brief critical notes in both English and German.

I am a baritone and can't sing the songs in their original key. I currently use the Bärenreiter single-volume arrangement for middle voice, in which all the songs are transposed down a whole step, to preserve key relationships between songs. (Unfortunately, the practical edition's middle-voice arrangement transposes everything down a minor third instead of a whole step, which is a little easier to sing, but makes the piano part even lower and harder to keep from drowning out the singer.) However, I don't always agree with the editorial decisions made, particularly when words are inserted that don't rhyme or that were likely to be transcription errors. A number of decrescendo or accent markings have been changed into accents, and in many cases the accents strike my pianist and me as less musically convincing. More importantly, there are a number of passages in the song cycle where identical sounding music is repeated more than once, but each repeat is annotated in the Sauer & Leidesdorf 1824 edition with different (or absent) expressive and dynamic markings; the Neue Schubert Ausgabe editors have symmetrized the score by placing all the markings in at all points. As I've compared the Neue Schubert Ausgabe edition, the Friedländer / Fischer-Dieskau / Budde edition and even the original Sauer & Leidesdorf 1824 edition, elements of all three editions have found their way into our scores. Ultimately, each individual performing this work must review the material at hand and make their own decisions. Good luck.

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Recommended Recordings

As with many pieces in the Western art music tradition, Die schöne Müllerin is so laden with musical, lyric and emotional depths that no one recording could possibly capture everything that is contained in the piece. It also calls for a fairly wide vocal range, perilously exposed singing that showcases all of a singer's faults and bad habits, a dense network of internal references and allusions, and a keen responsiveness to the underlying harmonies being played by the pianist. The singer has to be equal parts poet and composer, chamber musician and master storyteller. So if there are criticisms of the singers below, at least know that I'm throwing my stones from the comfort and safety of my own vocal glass house. These are the recordings surveyed here, with my favorites identified in boldface.

The first recording of Die schöne Müllerin was made in October of 1909 by tenor Franz Navál. It was recorded for the Odeon label on 78 rpm discs, and has recently been reissued by Symposium Records in Great Britain. The earliest landmark recording which is commercially available was made in London in 1935 by baritone Gerhard Hüsch and pianist Hanns Udo Müller (no relation to the poet). Hüsch was a regular in various Berlin opera houses in the 1930's, and also established a reputation as a singer of Lieder. The recording has been reissued with equally trailblazing accounts of Winterreise and Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte on a Preiser 2-CD set. Hüsch's diction is impeccable, and his operatic background gives him a natural dramatic flair. I'm a little turned off by suspect intonation here and there, and what strikes me as an over-dramatized account of the betrayal section. Still, it's fine in many spots, and the An die ferne Geliebte on the set remains one of the finest on disc.

The Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz made a recording in 1945 for EMI with Gerald Moore (easily the most important art song accompanist of the 20th century). This has been reissued on a Danacord CD with a booklet that includes an essay by Schiøtz with practical advice on singing the song cycle. Schiøtz's voice is stunningly beautiful and his musicianship is masterly. Moore had not met or worked with Schiøtz until these recording sessions began, so the quality of the give-and-take is not as fine as the studio recording he made later with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (see below), but he remained a responsive accompanist, and showed signs of growing more and more comfortable with Schiøtz as the sessions went on.

The next important recording that I've heard is a Decca recording with legendary English tenor Peter Pears and his equally legendary partner, pianist/composer Benjamin Britten. For the texts, they stuck mostly to Müller's original poems and discarded most of Schubert's text changes. They recorded the cycle made in 1959, but unfortunately it is not currently available on CD. It's a shame, as this is one of the great performances of the century. Pears was as famous for his keen, intelligent musicianship as he was for a curiously swallowed voice tone that doesn't suit all tastes. He more than delivers in terms of musical intelligence, and the voice is mostly quite listenable, but the marvel of the recording is Britten's playing. Britten manages at once to be quite subdued, taking his dynamics down a notch and ceding the stage for Pears at all opportunities, yet the playing has such clarity and transparency that you can still make out astonishing levels of detail at the quietest pianissimo. Their recording of Winterreise has been reissued, and this set needs to join it on CD!

No survey of recordings of Die schöne Müllerin would be complete without baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and pianist Gerald Moore, easily the most important Lieder duo of the 20th century. Fischer-Dieskau had already emerged as the leading Lieder singer of his generation by 1951, when he first teamed up with Moore, one of the most accomplished accompanists of his time. The two developed a nearly symbiotic partnership, and set an enviable standard for intelligence and musicality in Lieder performances and recitals. The duo recorded Die schöne Müllerin three times, but most agree that their finest effort was the 1961 recording, reissued on an EMI CD. By this time, they had the benefit of a decade of collaboration, and Fischer-Dieskau had the ideal balance between keen musical intelligence and youthful beauty of vocal tone. And Moore's book on the Schubert song cycles provides a road map to the pianist's approach to the songs, offering a wealth of detail and insight at breathtaking speed.

Gérard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin's 1964 studio recording was reissued as part of a Philips set of Schubert song recordings. Souzay and Baldwin team up for another classic recording, with Souzay's characteristic stunningly beautiful vocal tone and scrupulous attention to text and dynamic markings, and Baldwin's attentive, sympathetic accompaniment.

The 1966 studio recording of legendary tenor Fritz Wunderlich with his mentor and accompanist, Hubert Giesen, is available on a DG Classics reissue. It's the stuff of legend, but something of a disappointment compared with the exalted company listed above. Wunderlich, who came to Lieder singing from the opera house, is a touchstone for sheer lustrous beauty of vocal tone, and he draws on his opera experience to make for some effectively dramatic singing in the recitative-like sections. But much of the music-making is fairly unsubtle, and Giesen's playing strikes me as even cruder. It's a pity that Wunderlich died so tragically young, before he had the chance to develop into a more complete artist.

Peter Schreier won't be remembered for having the most beautiful voice of the 20th century, but his incisive musicianship rivals Fischer-Dieskau, and his thoughtful approach to the text provides an interesting alternative way to bring the poems to life. Schreier has a long history with this work, and has recorded it in several different arrangements, including one recording with fortepiano accompaniment which keeps Michael Vogl's emendations to the score. Perhaps the most interesting of his recordings is an arrangement for guitar accompanist that he recorded with Konrad Ragossnig (last reissued on the Berlin Classics label). The original edition from Sauer & Leidesdorf promised that an edition with guitar accompaniment would shortly follow the Op. 25. Schubert did not live to create a guitar arrangement, so Ragossnig and John Duarte created an edition of Die schöne Müllerin with guitar accompaniment. The results are sometimes fascinating -- the guitar is much less likely to dominate a singer than a modern concert grand piano or even a Schubert-era fortepiano, and it captures the sense of the burbling brook in uncanny ways. Unfortunately, I have a hard time imagining how the guitar would carry in a concert hall, and the accompanist would need to have fingers of steel to get through songs like Mein!, Eifersucht und Stolz, or Die böse Farbe at anything like a convincingly fast tempo. I've sampled a 1989 recording that Schreier made with pianist András Schiff for the Decca label. The intervening nine years gave Schreier's voice an edge that I don't like very much, and Schiff's playing is fluent but I found myself yearning for the shadings of Britten and Moore.

The arguments rage as to whether Schubert's songs are better accompanied by a modern piano or a fortepiano from Schubert's own time. The quieter sound, faster rate of sound decay and lower pitch of Schubert's fortepianos make for a very different texture compared with modern instruments, and sometimes balance more easily with the singer. A sentimental favorite recording of Die schöne Müllerin was made by local Boston favorite, baritone Sanford Sylvan with David Breitman accompanying on a fortepiano for a Nonesuch CD in 1991. For whatever reason, this was the recording that awakened me to the emotional impact of the cycle -- perhaps because Sylvan evokes the mood of a young man more than the studied trained voices of Fischer-Dieskau, Schreier, Pears and others. I love the impetuousness of his Ungeduld and Mein! and the simple understatement of his Die liebe Farbe.

I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of the recording that Ian Bostridge made in 1995 as part of pianist Graham Johnson's project to record all of Schubert's songs for the Hyperion label. Fischer-Dieskau returned from retirement to read the other Müller poems that Schubert did not set. I think this is a serious misstep; Fischer-Dieskau himself went on to regret that he had read the Prolog and Epilog in his 1961 recording with Moore, and I think that Schubert omitted the other three poems for good reasons. Bostridge also makes a literal reading of the Bärenreiter edition, typos and all, and I have a hard time getting past his thin, reedy voice. Johnson's accompaniment is mostly pretty tasteful, and he makes an interesting jump of an octave in the third verse of Des Müllers Blumen. I suspect Johnson may have used the lost manuscript margin note as authority for doing this, and in this verse, where the miller tries to reach his beloved in the world of sleep, the effect is very interesting.

Another rising star in the Lieder world is German baritone Matthias Goerne. He is a student of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, but has definitely made his own way with this cycle in a recording for Decca made with pianist Eric Schneider in October 2001. I have not warmed to the sound of Goerne's voice -- what his fans describe as velvety and veiled, I find swallowed, throaty, and reminiscent of Peter Pears. However, his intonation is fairly rock-steady and once you get used to the sound, the mechanism of production is breathtakingly consistent from the top of his range to its estimable bottom, and from ear-crunching fortissimo to the most hushed pianissimo. He uses his astonishing tone and voice control to impressive effect in the cycle, taking a highly idiosyncratic approach to the cycle. This is no youthful miller here, but rather as one reviewer aptly pointed out, something like Jud Fry from Oklahoma!, ponderous, obsessive and highly unlikely to get the girl in the end. Tempos for some of the slower songs are astonishingly slow, and while this makes for some astonishing displays of color and breath control, by the end of five minutes of Die liebe Farbe, I've forgotten what color the girl likes. I don't think its the only Die schöne Müllerin to have, but it along with Schreier make for fascinating, thoughtful contrasts to the established orthodoxy. And it's refreshing to know that there are still depths of nuance and color in this cycle waiting to be explored and unlocked by another, new singer!

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Recommended Reading

About Wilhelm Müller:

About Franz Schubert:

About the song cycle:

Three recommended editions for the music (though see above for comments):
Recommended editions for the poem texts:
Books about Schubert's songs and about Die schöne Müllerin

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For more information:

About the poet

About the composer

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