About Die Schöne Müllerin
We are very pleased
to present this recording of Franz Schubert’s masterpiece “Die
Schöne Müllerin.” This work was published in 1824, but was not performed
as a complete cycle in concert until May of 1856, when the famous baritone
Julius Stockhausen performed it in Vienna, accompanied by
Johannes Brahms. Referring to one of these history-making
concerts Brahms wrote: “I don't think I have ever enjoyed singing so
much as I did yesterday evening.”
and Vladislav Kovalsky performed this work in concert in Middletown,
New Jersey, almost exactly on the 150th Anniversary of its premiere.
That successful event inspired the recording project: a collaboration
between the artists, made possible by resources provided by the Monmouth
Conservatory of Music, Trinity Episcopal Church in Red Bank,
NJ, and Coast to Coast Studios.
Die schöne Müllerin
translates roughly as “the beautiful mill maiden.” It is the story
of a young miller lad who sets out to "wander," and decides to follow
a brook wherever it leads him. On his journey, he finds a mill and a
new job, and falls madly in love with the owner's daughter. But
a bold hunter enters the picture, and the miller just can’t compete
with him: the maiden falls for the hunter instead. This begins
the miller lad's sad decline into despair, jealousy and anger, and finally
he takes his own life by jumping into his beloved brook.
The poems in the cycle
were written by Wilhelm Müller between 1816 and 1820. Schubert
selected twenty of the poems and set them to music, bringing them to
life and immortalizing them. Schubert had just been diagnosed with an
incurable disease that would kill him five years later, at the age of
31, and it is thought that he composed some of these songs in the hospital.
Schubert wrote to a friend in March 1824:
"I find myself to be the most unhappy and wretched
creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be
right again, and who in sheer despair continually makes things worse
and worse instead of better; imagine a man, I say, whose most brilliant
hopes have perished, to whom the felicity of love and friendship
have nothing to offer but pain at best... for upon retiring to bed
each night I hope that I may not wake again, and each morning only
recalls yesterday's grief."
This gives some insight
into the music that Schubert crafted in this cycle, spanning a lifetime
of human emotions from youthful exuberance to love, joy and despair,
and we can connect with him here, 180 years later, in a land far away,
through his music.
It is interesting to
note that Schubert dedicated this song cycle to an amateur singer,
Karl Freiherr von Schönstein. Franz Liszt heard
Schönstein sing in 1838, and was moved to tears, saying: “Baron Schönstein
declaims Schubert’s songs with the technique of a great artist, and
sings them with the simple sensitivity of an amateur who concentrates
on the emotions expressed [in the songs], without preoccupying himself
with the public.”
A brief synopsis of
the work follows:
Songs 1–3: The
wandering miller sets out on his own, follows a stream and asks
where it will lead him, and finds his new place of employment.
Songs 4–6: The
wanderer falls for die schöne Muellerin, and asks his brook if she
loves him too.
Songs 7–11: Here,
the miller falls madly in love, and proclaims that the beautiful
maiden is "Mein!"
Songs 12–15: The
color green enters the story first here, and plays several roles
through the end of the story. First, it is a ribbon wrapped
on a lute hung on the wall. The maiden tells the miller she
likes the color green, and the miller gladly sends the ribbon to
her as a gift, as a symbol of their love (in his mind). But
in reality, the green she likes is a reference to a bold hunter
who has come on the scene.
Songs 16-20: The
wanderer's fantasy is shattered when he learns that the maiden loves
the hunter, and not him. The color green now comes to symbolize
grass on the poor lad's grave. He contemplates how his love
might still live on after he is gone, when the maiden passes his
grave and realizes in her heart that his love was true. Flowers
blooming in the grass will announce that May has come, and winter
is past. Then the miller shares a "To Be or Not To Be" moment with
his beloved brook, and decides to end his life in it. The
brook sings him to rest, and as the full moon rises the mist clears,
and he again becomes one with the vast universe.
We hope you will stop
and rest a while, and wander with us on an amazing musical journey into
the unique world created for us by Schubert and Müller.