Die Schöne Müllerin

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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.”

Douglas Clark 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 SchönsteinFranz 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.

Douglas Clark

Vladislav Kovalsky

Track listing:
  1. Das Wandern [2:25] play sample
  2. Wohin? [2:23] play sample
  3. Halt! [1:29] play sample
  4. Danksagung an den Bach [2:18] play sample
  5. Am Feierabend [2:28] play sample
  6. Der Neugierige [4:18] play sample
  7. Ungeduld [2:43] play sample
  8. Morgengruß [3:56] play sample
  9. Des Müllers Blumen [3:15] play sample
  10. Tränenregen [3:51] play sample
  11. Mein! [2:24] play sample
  12. Pause [4:16] play sample
  13. Mit dem grünen Lautenbande [2:10] play sample
  14. Der Jäger [1:09] play sample
  15. Eifersucht und Stolz [1:42] play sample
  16. Die liebe Farbe [5:08] play sample
  17. Die böse Farbe [2:17] play sample
  18. Trockne Blumen [4:10] play sample
  19. Der Müller und der Bach [3:56] play sample
  20. Des baches Wiegenlied [6:52] play sample

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May 10, 2009