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Franz Peter Schubert

Franz Peter Schubert Composer

Die schöne Müllerin, D.795, Op.25

Performances: 99
Tracks: 1190
  • Die schöne Müllerin, D.795, Op.25
    Year: 1823
    Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
    Pr. Instrument: Baritone
    • 1.Das Wandern
    • 2.Wohin?
    • 3.Halt!
    • 4.Danksagung an den Bach
    • 5.Am Feierabend
    • 6.Der Neugierige
    • 7.Ungeduld
    • 8.Morgengruss
    • 9.Des Müllers Blumen
    • 10.Tränenregen
    • 11.Mein!
    • 12.Pause
    • 13.Mit dem grünen Lautenbande
    • 14.Der Jäger
    • 15.Eifersucht und Stolz
    • 16.Die liebe Farbe
    • 17.Die böse Farbe
    • 18.Trockne Blumen
    • 19.Der Müller und der Bach
    • 20.Des Baches Wiegenlied
Schubert's most recognized contribution to the musical canon was not merely his revolutionary approach to song, but his combination of vitally connected songs into cycles, as exemplified in his two cycles on texts by Wilhelm Müller, Die Schöne Müllerin in 1823, and Die Winterreise in 1827. "A frown from fortune," speculated Schubert scholar Richard Capell in 1928, "and Die Schöne Müllerin might have been but another of those rambling tales, extended beyond every lyrical propriety, with which Schubert now and again, as cannot be disguised, has fairly bored us. Thanks to Müller, it was something quite different—new, and endlessly engaging. The all-important advantage is that the interruptions in the recital afford a succession of new standpoints in time: a drama is revealed to us in a series of lyrical moments." One need not accept Capell's perfunctory and unforgiving generalizations of Schubert's output in order to realize that, with Die Schöne Müllerin, Schubert found a way to reconcile—in an extraordinary and synergistic fashion—his gift for poignant melody with the demands of large-scale form.

Still, there is something paradoxical in the last phrase of Capell's argument, which appears to admit as a plus what elsewhere seems a minus: that the moments themselves, rather than creating a finely crafted composite with a constructional integrity approaching Beethoven, are just so poignant as to make listeners oblivious to any weaknesses in the musical, poetic, and semantic macrocosm. Resonating with this view is a common reaction to Schubert's instrumental works—that the Unfinished Symphony, for example, is made up of a considerable variety of tunes, each of an impressive quality, disqualifying as pedantic any attempt to analyze their arrangements and relationships. Perhaps realizing that, depending on the text's level of semantic generality, his approach as a composer may lack consistency, Schubert used the recurring images in Müller's texts (the flow of the stream, the orbit of the mill wheel) to serve as a kind of unifying semantic space, within which his miraculous "lyrical moments" can occur.

The first of the song cycle's texts quickly establishes the anxiously and sometimes uneasily circular paths the 20 songs will take, and one can immediately suspect that this will not be a narrative of events so much as an exploration of certain recurring, expressive modes: "To wander is the millers wander, to wander, to wander...." The bipartite strophic nature of the song resonates with the metaphorically circular images of the text: the water running through its eternal course; the wheel outside the mill, set in motion by the water's current; the millstones inside the mill, translating the water's endless wandering.

Strophic forms reflect these recurring symbols while allowing for a surprising range of expression. In "Die Liebe Farbe," for example, an entirely strophic (repeated) melody accompanies three verses of texts with widely varying effects. In the first, the speaker tells of the green adornments he shall don to please his love, since green is her favorite color. In the second verse, the subject is a hunter "hieing across the meadows," presumably in hunter's green. Listeners are left to assume that the hunter has stolen the speaker's love, for in the last verse, the green he shall wear is the green grass atop his grave. The once sprightly melody has now been transformed, without any apparent musical means, into the voice of irony and bitterness (underscoring Schubert's rumored opinion that there is no such thing as truly "happy music"). By looking to the text for cohesion, Schubert finds even more expressive possibilities in the music itself.

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1.Das Wandern

In Wilhelm Muller's cycle of poems "Die schöne Müllerin" (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), there are only three real characters: the young wandering miller, the miller's beautiful daughter with whom he falls hopelessly in love, and the brook which turns the mill's wheel and ultimately proves to be the resolution to the young miller's problems. Although the character of the beautiful daughter is not present in the first song, both the other characters are. The wandering miller literally introduces himself with a description of the joys of his peripatetic life from the first line—"Wandering is the miller's happiness"—to the last—"So let me go wandering." The brook joins in the miller's joy not only in the second verse of the song—"From the waters we've learned wandering"—but also through the piano accompaniment which rolls beneath the singer's miller in never-ceasing sixteenth notes in a moderately moving tempo.

The song itself is a very simple strophic song, that is, a song in which each of the five verses is performed to exactly the same music. And the music itself is very simple. After a four-bar introduction, the music proceeds in pairs of three four-bar phrases. The three paired phrases are themselves very simple, seeming to be more folk song than art song in essence. And the harmonies are equally simply: the harmonies simply alternate tonic and dominant chords except for the central pair of phrases which moves no further away from the tonic than to its relative minor and even then the music comes quickly back to the dominant to prepare for the return of the tonic in the final pair of phrases.

Yet within this folk-like simplicity, Schubert is able to create a melody which embodies the miller's joyful bonhomie and which expresses each turn of the song's verses. Indeed, the folk-like simplicity of the song is its greatest strength: anything more clever, more self-consciously artful, would certainly have betrayed the song, the miller and the brook. This artless simplicity is, in its way, the true genius of the song.

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The second song of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, "Wohin?" (Where to?), begins almost as a continuation of the first song: the texture of the piano writing with its gently rushing, never-ceasing sixteenth notes in the right hand over a pulsing bass in the left hand is very similar to the accompaniment texture of the first song, the tempo Mässig (Moderately) is very similar to the Mässig geschwind (moderately moving) of the first song, and even the time signature of 2/4 is precisely the same as that of the first song. And at first the structure of the second song seems to be very similar to the first song's strophic structure, and its harmonies seem as simple: they consist of an alternation of tonic and dominant in the outer phrases and a brief move to the relative minor in the central phrases.

But as it progresses, the second song moves both literally and metaphorically beyond the first song. After what could be called the first strophe, the music ends on the dominant and then modulates to relative minor for the central section of the song which has a melody which might be described as a development of the opening melody. This then returns to opening music again in the tonic for the last strophe. These harmonic and melodic changes are the musical embodiments of the changes in the verse: as the young wandering miller hears the brook gushing "so wondrously bright" in the opening strophe, it guides his path "downward and onward" to the relative minor of the central strophe, to a place where there must be "dancing down below." The wandering miller's resolution to following the gushing brook returns to the melody and harmony to the opening verse. And all this is accomplished with music that sounds utterly artless in its folk-like simplicity.

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After following the brightly gushing brook's rushing sixteenth notes in the second song, the wandering miller comes upon a vision which forces him to "Halt!" (Stop!)—the title of the third song. In the verses, the young miller describes his vision of a clear and friendly mill under a sun shining brightly in the sky. But the music, while full of joyful anticipation in the melody, is subtly undercut by the harmonies. Even in the introduction—that is, even before the miller can relate his vision—the music moves from the tonic to the dominant and then to the minor dominant, giving the music a sense of tension and even anxiety. Indeed, even from the first notes, the music of the accompaniment—the music of the brook which has been the miller's companion and confidant—seems to contain both eager joy in its incessant dwelling on the tonic and incipient sorrow in the addition of the sixth degree of the scale, the root of the relative minor of the tonic, in every turn of the mill's wheel. And these portents of sorrow—and the young miller's ability to sense them if not yet to articulate them—are carried straight through to the end of the song. Not only does the major-minor turning mill wheel figure appear in nearly every measure for the rest of the song, but even at the end, the harmonies move to the minor subdominant, using it in the final cadence rather than the more conventional—and far more positive—dominant-tonic cadence.

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4.Danksagung an den Bach

After the rushing sixteenth notes in quick tempos which bring the wandering miller toward his vision in the first three songs, the fourth song, Dankgesang an den Bach (Thanksgiving to the Brook) slows the tempo to Etwas langsam (somewhat slowly). At this tempo, the still-ceaseless murmur of the brook which has been the miller's companion and confidant is more intimate and more personal. The song's harmonic structure in setting the poem's five verses is the most complex yet in the Müllerin cycle, as befits the miller's more complex emotions. After the introduction and first verse's simple alternation of tonic and dominant, the second verse moves to the minor supertonic to introduce for the first time in the cycle the third and final character of the cycle, the miller's beautiful daughter. And yet introducing her to minor-key music foretells the young miller's eventual fate. After a return to both the tonic and the introduction, the music of the third verse moves the music farther harmonically than it has ever been so far in the cycle: to the flat mediant as a beguiling major key. And it is precisely here, at this magical modulation, that the miller wonders whether he has been bewitched. But with the music's return to the tonic in the fourth verse, the miller accepts his destiny—"I yield to my fate"—and the final verse repeats the music of the opening verse and follows it with a final return of the introduction, bringing the music back to its home. Yet despite these harmonic complexities, the music itself never betrays the simple sincerity of the miller by sounding like anything other than the most artless folk song.

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5.Am Feierabend

And so, after his companion the brook has brought the wandering miller to the enchanting vision of the mill and its owner's beautiful daughter, the wandering miller becomes a stationary miller, a miller among other millers, working at the hard tasking of milling and none too happy about it. In the fifth song, "Am Feierabend," the once wandering miller finds out what real milling, and real life, is all about. In a stark A minor, at a Ziemlich geschwind (rather fast) tempo, to the ongoing incessant sixteenth notes of the accompaniment, the miller finds out what it means to have to actually ply the humble miller's trade. He wishes it were otherwise, he wishes he had the strength and the power to do the work of thousands, to muscular music that strides through to the tonic major. And he wishes it were otherwise precisely because then die schöne Müllerin (the miller's beautiful daughter) would notice him.

But at twilight, to slow spacious chords in the submediant major, the miller tells all his workers that they have all done a good job, and the liebe Mädchen (the lovely girl) bids goodnight to all in the most ravishing sharp mediant major—a moment of pure enchantment, except that the young miller knows that she is not talking to him and him alone but to him and all his co-workers, that, despite the beauty of the music, this beauty is not meant for him. And thus, although the poem ends here, Schubert returns to the surging anger of the tonic minor opening music, in which the young miller's anger and frustration are all too clearly apparent.

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6.Der Neugierige

By the sixth song in Die schöne Müllerin, one might be forgiven for thinking that the young miller is a sentimental fool. He has, after all, been led by a brook to a mill where he works like a dog in the hope of attracting the attention of the owner's beautiful daughter. And, when he falls in hopeless love with her, he does not even have the guts to woo her or even to ask her about her feelings for him. Instead, in "Der Neugierige" (The Inquisitive One), he asks the flowers, he asks the stars, and, finally, he asks his friend the brook if she loves him or not.

All this would be at best mawkishly cute and at worst contemptibly maudlin if it were not for the transcendental beauty of Schubert's music. And the music for "Der Neugierige" is as beautiful as that of any song Schubert ever wrote; indeed, it is purposefully transcendentally beautiful. After setting the poem's first two verses to a recitative in duple time marked Langsam (slowly), Schubert sets the closing three verses as an Italianate aria of long-breathed beauty in triple time marked Sehr langsam (very slowly). The third and fifth verses, the outer sections of the aria, are set to nearly identical music in the tonic major. But for the central fourth verse of the aria, wherein the miller asks the brook whether the daughter loves him, yes or no, the music modulates from the tonic major of B major with its five sharps to the flat submediant major with one sharp, literally depressing the music from the brightness of "yes" to the darkness of "no."

Although the lovelorn miller may or may not be a sentimental fool, he is a sentimental fool whose love is embodied in some of the most heartrendingly beautiful music Schubert composed.

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In the seventh song of Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), Schubert for the first time since the cycle's first song writes a straightforward strophic setting of the four verses of the poem—each verse is sung to exactly the same music, thereby making the same music bear the burden of expressing the meanings of four different sets of words. But the words of the poet Muller's four verses are in fact strikingly similar already—in each, the young miller declares what he ought to do in order to express his love for the owner's lovely daughter, and each verse ends with the assertion that his heart is hers and will always be hers. So Schubert's decision to set the verses strophically seems preordained. And indeed, the rushing triplets in the accompaniment, the forward-thrusting melody, and the rapid harmonic changes, all push the song forward toward the same emphatic assertion each time—which eminently suits a song whose title is Ungeduld (Impatience).

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It is said that Schubert was a fat little man with a shy and introverted personality. It is said that, owing to his physique and his personality, he was unable to declare his love for any woman (or, as some current scholarship might suggest, young boy). Whether these characteristizations are made sympathetically, derogatorily, or merely scholastically, it does seem that only a shy and introverted composer could have composed the cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), the story of a young miller too shy and introverted to declare his love. And only a shy and introverted composer could have composed the eighth song in the cycle, "Morgengruss" (Morning Greeting), and made it so completely sympathetic and so unspeakably beautiful.

After the seventh song's straight strophic setting of four verses, one would have thought that following it with another straight strophic setting would have been too taxing for the listener's attention. But Schubert's music makes it work. Indeed, the very static quality of a strophic setting in which the music for each verse is exactly the same, admirably suits the verses for this song. Because, in fact, this is no true morning greeting—the young miller is far too shy and introverted even to bid the lovely daughter a good morning—but a series of four verses delaying saying good morning until it is too late to say anything at all.

What saves the song from mawkishness is the simple perfection of Schubert's music. After the piano's five-bar introduction, the singer's opening melody soars above the easy open chords of the accompaniment, starting on the tonic and moving only so far as the dominant. But after the piano's one-bar interlude, the singer's melody moves through doubt to sorrow as the arpeggiated accompaniment moves through the dominant minor to the subdominant minor, to close on the dominant major, making the singer's sadness tangible. But after a fermata, the opening melody returns over a heart-easing arpeggiated tonic triad in the accompaniment to close safely back where it started, on the tonic. Thus the music moves from nowhere to nowhere via doubt and sorrow, the perfect image of the verses.

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9.Des Müllers Blumen

In his magnificent (even if unbelievably long, verbose, and self-indulgent) liner notes to his recording of Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter) with Ian Bostridge, accompanist Graham Johnson begins his comments on the ninth song of the cycle, "Des Müllers Blümen" (The Miller's Flowers), with the statement "The boy continues to be obsessed." This is one of the great understatements: the young miller of the title has progressed nearly halfway through the 20 songs of the cycle, and he has yet to tell the mill owner's lovely daughter of his love for her. Indeed, one begins to wonder at this point exactly how sane this miller is. He has conceived an idealized love for a woman to whom he has never spoken and about whom he knows nothing. To say he is obsessed is perhaps not quite accurate; to say he is delusional may be closer to the mark.

And yet there is always Schubert's deeply compassionate and ravishingly beautiful music to make the miller a profoundly sympathetic character. Even in the cycle's ninth song, in which the miller plants flowers beneath the daughter's window to tell her what he himself cannot, Schubert's music is so pure and so simple that the otherwise unbearably mawkish and delusional sentiments of the miller are made real. Even in the third strophic song in a row in the cycle, even in a song that strays only once from the notes of the key in which it is set, even in a song whose melody consists only of two repeated phrases, Schubert's music is so beautiful that the miller and his delusions are heartbreakingly affecting.

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While there is no method in the madness of Schubert's young miller, there is method in Schubert's setting of his madness. In the tenth song of the cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), Schubert sets the poet's verse strophically yet again, the fourth time in a row that he has done so. But not quite: the first four verses of the song are set strophically, but the short fifth verse is something almost but not quite altogether different. The first four verses are in the tonic major, with a melody of heartrending loveliness and sensitivity, but the fifth and final verse presents a modified version of the melody in the tonic minor—a harmonic change that completely eclipses the loveliness and sensitivity. Nor is this harmonic change even prepared or predicted: Schubert does not modulate to the tonic minor; he simply flattens the thirds, thereby turning all the light to darkness.

Why? To set the verses, of course: halfway through the cycle's 20 songs, the young miller finally gets to spend some time alone with the mill owner's lovely daughter in a song entitled "Tränenregen" (Rain of Tears). And what does this Biedermeier Don Juan do? He says not a word; he does not a thing; he merely stares at her reflection in the brook and lets loose a few silent tears. That's the first four verses in the tonic major. And what does the lovely daughter do? She says simply that it looks like rain and goes back to the house. That's the final verse in the tonic minor.

What is the madness? The miller's inability to say or do anything to win the affection or even the attention of the object of his feelings. And what is Schubert's method? To embody the miller's terminal hesitancy in strophic settings of idealized love in the tonic major and to contrast them with the dark reality of the tonic minor.

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By the eleventh song of the cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), the listener may be asking themselves if the singer of these songs, the character of the young miller, is in fact insane. Something has happened between the end of the tenth song and the start of the eleventh, something has caused the young miller, after having sat silently crying next to his beloved by the brook at the end of the tenth song, to be declaring in the eleventh song, entitled Mein! (Mine!), that she is now his. The music for this song is, after the three strophic settings of the past three songs, gloriously, exuberantly non-strophic but rather forward and onrushing in an almost sonata-form movement with a short development in its center. And after the moderate to slow tempos of the past three songs, this song is fast and even rushed, its melody surging impulsively forward, slightly ahead of the harmonies.

But what has happened? Has anything happened? Has his beloved actually done anything to indicate to the young miller that she shares his feelings? Has she told him? Has she kissed him? Has she held him? Neither the verses nor the music tell the listener anything save this: the miller is not telling anyone that she is his. He is telling the brook; he is telling the mill. He is not with anyone; not even his beloved. He is alone, declaring that she is his to nobody at all.

Listeners may well be asking themselves if this shy and introverted miller is more than obsessed, more than delusional—if he is in fact nuts.

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Heretofore in the cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), Schubert has used most of the standard song forms but has especially favored the strophic setting, that is, the use of the same music for each of the song's verses. But in the 12th song, "Pause" (Pause), Schubert invents his own form in a through-composed song that alternates between recitative and aria with elements of strophic setting as well. This inventiveness mirrors the sense of the verses as the young miller's thoughts flit from one thing to another in the privacy of his room. The vagaries of his thought are caught in the music's unexpected and extraordinary modulations and turns of melody.

Only a close analysis of the setting could do justice to the subtlety of Schubert's music, but one example may perhaps suffice. In the final lines—"Is this the echo of my love's sorrow/Or could it be the prelude to new songs?"—the music moves from a phrase in the flat dominant major, pauses on an anguished dissonance on the German word for "love's pain," and resumes on the same dissonance in a different inversion that turns the music back to a perfect cadence in the original tonic of the piece. It is a passage of great musical daring, and it perfectly captures the sense of the words and the mood of the song's close.

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13.Mit dem grünen Lautenbande

In most performances of Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), the 13th song beings immediately after the end of the 12th song. Both songs are in the same key, and, more importantly, the verse of the 13th song follows the sense of the 12th song by picking up on idea of the color green. In the 12th song, the young miller mentions the green strap that holds his lute to the wall, but in the 13th song, "Mit dem grünen Lautenbande" (With the Lute's Green Strap), the miller gives this green ribbon as a token of his love to the schöne Müllerin. She, apparently, has visited him in his room and remarked on the green band. Why she was there and what she did while she was there is unclear, but, from the lighthearted and by no means passionate strophic song to which Schubert sets the song's three verses, one would guess the visit was purely casual and platonic. Indeed, given the miller's delusional love for the miller's daughter, one wonders whether she was ever in his room at all or whether this is merely another one of his delusions.

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14.Der Jäger

After all the young miller's delusional daydreaming in the first 14 songs of the cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter), the 15th song, "Der Jäger" (The Hunter), comes a rude shock. Indeed, it concerns a rude, crude, and above all lewd shock to the young miller: his schöne Müllerin apparently prefers someone else to him. And not just any someone, not just another young miller, but a hunter, a rough, tough, gun-toting hunter whom the shy and introspective miller likens to a wild boar rutting through his sweetheart's cabbage patch (Freud would have loved that image!). Schubert sets the poem's two verses of invective to fast and brutal music that starts out as a canon but quickly gets worked up to sustain contrapuntal invention. In furious 6/8 time, the miller denounces the hunter and his hairy-chested machismo. But, then, as with nearly everything else in the cycle, the listener would be justified in suspecting that the miller is talking to himself, that he doesn't have the guts to tell the hunter to his face, that, once again and not for the last time, the miller is delusional. After all, would he even have the wits to sing in canon if he were truly confronting the hunter?

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15.Eifersucht und Stolz

It was the brook that got the young miller into this mess, and it is to the brook that the miller turns to get himself out again. After spending the best part of the central songs of Die schöne Müllerin cycle on dry land, the miller returns to the brook in the 15th song, "Eifersucht und Stolz" (Jealousy and Pride). And he returns to the brook in the parallel minor, in the key that brought him to this particular mill and this particular miller's daughter and this particular Romantic mess. Because, as the miller discovered in the 14th song, the daughter loves another, a rough, tough hunter, not a shy and introspective miller who does not have the guts to tell her of his love. And in Schubert's brilliant word setting, all the miller's anger and fury are directed at neither the girl nor the hunter but at the brook whom he commands to tell the girl of his feelings. Every word of the verse is set with unparalleled genius by Schubert, the hunter with his horns, the girl with her inconstancy, the miller with his delusional love. Along with "Pause," "Eifersucht und Stolz" is one of the most impressive settings in the whole Müllerin cycle.

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16.Die liebe Farbe

Nearly half the songs in Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter) are strophic songs, that is, songs which set the different verses to the same music. The listener may marvel at the miracle of Schubert's invention in his imaginative use of this essentially simple form, and nowhere does he use the strophic form more effectively than in the 16th song, "Die liebe Farbe" (The Lovely Color). Here, Schubert uses the form to underline the miller's state of mind, or, rather, to emphasize by repetition that he only has one thing on his mind. After his discovery that the schöne Müllerin loves another, the miller can no longer live in the world of delusional love of the first 15 songs, he can no longer believe in the color green which has symbolized his love, he can no longer believe in love. Now, as the strophic form makes clear, he can only believe in death.

Nor is the formal repetition the only repetition: for every single one of the 76 bars of the song, Schubert repeats like a tolling bell the note F sharp. Endlessly it sounds, driving the idea of suicide deep into the miller's mind and heart. His melody starts on F sharp, rises to F sharp, sinks back down to F sharp, and never, never can it get away from F sharp. The miller is no longer obsessed, no longer delusional, no longer in love, except, in Keats' famous phrase, to be in love with easeful death.

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17.Die böse Farbe

There have been times throughout Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Miller's Daughter) cycle when the listener could wonder if the young miller were more than merely a shy and introverted lad who, in his first experience of love, had become a bit unhinged. There were times when the listener could wonder it in fact the miller were, frankly, crazy. After all, he has talked either to himself or to his friend the brook throughout the cycle but, the one time in the cycle he actually gets to spend time with the schöne Müllerin, all he does is weep. And while the listener might charitably describe his character as shy and introverted, one might less charitably describe him as wildly delusional. After all, he was proclaiming that the schöne Müllerin was his in the eleventh song immediately after weeping alone into the stream.

But whether he was crazy before or crazy later, he is surely crazy by the seventeenth song of the cycle, "Die bose Farbe" (The Angry Color). Not only are his words crazy—green, the beloved symbol for his love of the Müllerin in previous songs, the liebe Farbe (loving color) of the sixteenth song has here turned into an anthropomorphic monster—but the music to which Schubert sets these words is crazy. Literally crazy: the B minor tonality of the sixteenth song has turned in the seventeenth song into something somewhere between B major—the song's key signature—and B minor—the key to which it keeps changing. Not modulating, changing: the first two bars of the song are in the tonic major piano, the second two bars are in the tonic minor forte. And this alternation of modes keeps up through the whole song. From bar to bar, Schubert will shift the mode from major to minor and back again, in a tempo marked Ziemlich geschwind (Rather quickly), as if the two modes were not two different things, not a positive and a negative way of treating the tonic, but rather the same thing, the positive and the negative fused into one thing.

In the earlier songs of the cycle, the listener might have thought the miller's alternation between agony and ecstasy were, to put it clinically, a bit manic-depressive. Now, manic and depressive, positive and negative have fused. The miller is truly crazy.

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18.Trockne Blumen

So to the grave he goes. After his betrayal in the 14th song, his anger in the 15th song, his despair in the 16th song, and his rage in the 17th song, the young miller imaginatively puts himself in the grave in "Trockne Blumen" (Withered Flowers), the 18th song of Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter). Schubert perfectly embodies the miller's death-like state in music of slow and stately solemnity, music that is literally grounded by the steady beats of the accompaniment's three-note chords on every beat of the song's first two verses. And yet something happens: even in death, flowers rise from the miller's grave in May, and, as she walks across his grave, the schöne Müllerin notices the flowers and remarks that the miller's love for her was true. And Schubert's music embodies the miller's strange satisfaction in having his love acknowledged by changing its key from the tonic minor to the tonic major, by changing the spare three-note chords to lush six-note chords, and by changing the stolid on-the-beat rhythm to a walking dactylic rhythm. But this change, this strange satisfaction, is just another of the miller's delusions and, after the miller stops singing five bars before the end, the key changes back to the tonic minor and the left hand of the accompaniment drops down nearly two octaves to the grave.

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19.Der Müller und der Bach

Perhaps the most beautiful song in Schubert's cycle Die schöne Müllerin is the penultimate song, "Der Müller und der Bach" (The Miller and the Brook). Or perhaps one should say the most profound: finally free from the delusions that have obsessed him from the early songs in the cycle, the miller is at last clear and enlightened. This may seem an extravagant, not to say insane, judgment, considering that not only does the penultimate song feature an aria sung literally by the brook, but that the miller and the brook are singing of crying angels and other flights of metaphoric fancy. But these metaphors are not delusions, and the miller sees and sees clearly that, after his heart has broken, after his mind has shattered, there is no rest for him except the rest of death. And, in this song, the miller accepts the inevitability of his death clearly and without delusions.

And, besides, all these flights of metaphoric fancy are set to the simplest and the most perfect music of the whole cycle. The opening binary melody of the miller is spare to the point of severity, and its accompaniment is austere to the point of asceticism. It is music that embodies the silent and still sorrow of the grave. But the music changes when the brook sings, the mode changes from bleak minor to serene major, the austere accompaniment begins to flow in serene sextuplets, and the spare melody becomes an aria of utter perfection. It does not last: the miller sings his song again, almost the same minor-keye song as he had sung at the song's opening, but the brook's serene sextuplets still flow beneath it, consoling him even in his despair. At the end, the music returns to the tonic major, flowing calmly and quietly to its close.

Thus the miller and his brook become one.

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20.Des Baches Wiegenlied

When he composed Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter) in 1823, Schubert had just been released from the hospital. There he had been treated for syphilis, but he had not been cured. There was no cure for syphilis: it was inevitably and invariably a terminal disease, a disease that always ended with paralysis, madness, and death. But before the end, the suffer had to endure the alienation of society because syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. Thus, in a song cycle in which love leads the central character to death, Schubert perhaps worked out his own destiny. And in the last song of the cycle "Des Baches Wiegenlied" (The Brook's Lullaby), he may have written his own epitaph.

The Wiegenlied is one of peace and serenity, of calm and tranquility, of major chords and swaying rhythms, of quiet dynamics and gentle expression, of consolation and even acceptance. In the last of the cycle's strophic settings, Schubert writes a song that truly ends where it begins, a song that simply waits for the day with no end, the day when the mists clear and the heavens open. For Schubert, for any man living under the shadow of death (and everyone lives under the shadow of death), such an epitaph is a compassionate blessing. As the composer bids the miller, so too does the listener bid the composer Godspeed, and flocks of angels sing the cycle to its rest.

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