Music > Songs (Lieder) > Song Cycles
Franz Schubert and the poet Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) were contemporaries in the bourgeois Biedermeier time, linking eighteen century Classicism with the early years of Romanticism. Wilhelm Müller came from Dessau, Germany, where he worked as a librarian, after studying philology in Berlin. With Lord Byron (1788-1824) and many other Romantics he was fascinated by the successful Greek War of Independence (1821-1830), and his finest works, the heroic 'Griechenlieder' were inspired by it.
Wilhelm Müller however is best remembered by the two great song cycles composed by Schubert: 'Die schöne Müllerin' (1823) and 'Winterreise' (1827). 'Die schöne Müllerin' consists of twenty songs, most of them in major keys. Die schöne Müllerin is a song cycle by Franz Schubert on poems by Wilhelm Müller. It is the earliest song cycle to be widely performed. Müller's poems were published in 1820, and Schubert set most of them to music between May and September of 1823.
Schubert omitted several of the poems, such as a prologue and an epilogue delivered by the poet. The work was published in 1824 under the title Die schöne Müllerin, ein Zyklus von Liedern, gedichtet von Wilhelm Müller, which approximately means, "The lovely maid of the mill, a song cycle to poems by Wilhelm Müller". The cycle is occasionally referred to as the "Müllerlieder," the Müller songs, a term used by the composer once in a letter. This is not especially useful nomenclature, since Schubert's later and equally celebrated song cycle Die Winterreise is also to poems by Müller.
There are twenty songs in the cycle, around half in simple strophic form, and they move from cheerful optimism to despair and tragedy. At the beginning of the cycle, a man wanders happily through the countryside. He comes upon a brook, which he follows to a mill. He falls in love with a beautiful girl who works there (she is "the beautiful mill-girl" referred to in the title). He tries to impress the mill-girl, but discovers that she and a hunter are in love. He despairs and drowns himself in the brook. The last number is a lullaby sung by the brook. Die schöne Müllerin is one of Schubert's most admired works, and it is frequently performed and recorded. A typical performance lasts around sixty to seventy minutes.
Danksagung an den Bach
Des Müllers Blumen
Mit dem grünen Lautenbande
Eifersucht und Stolz
Die liebe Farbe
Die böse Farbe
Der Müller und der Bach
Des Baches Wiegenlied
Listen to 'Die schöne Müllerin' song cycle