The Schöne Müllerin - The Beautiful Miller Girl
What is die schöne Müllerin?
Franz Schubert’s song cycle for voice and piano,The Beautiful Miller Girl, tells the story of first love and lost innocence. A young miller sets out to follow a stream, which leads him to opportunity and possibility, but also disappointment and disillusion. At the end of the cycle, he returns to the stream to ask it the ultimate question.
Schubert wrote the songs in Vienna in 1823, and they were published in 1824. Set to texts from a set of poems of the same title by Wilhelm Müller, Schubert’s The Beautiful Miller Girl was originally published in five parts, each of which corresponds to a distinct stage in the young miller’s life. Now we know the piece as a song cycle of 20 songs, typically sung in succession in a single concert.
In this incarnation, the story of the miller takes on a special musical and dramatic complexity. Performers and audience alike wander along a babbling brook in a simple forest and meet a series of characters who act out a simple play. At the same time, the piece as a whole embodies a much greater story – that of a young man’s travels into adulthood, and the acute disappointment that knowledge, truth, and awareness can bring.
Schubert was himself a tenor with an unusually high voice, and, like his other cycles, the songs were originally written in high keys. They have since been transposed to accommodate both medium and low voices, and the cycle can be sung by a man or a woman.
The Schubert Song Project on die schöne Müllerin
During Schubert’s lifetime, he wrote music to publish, and the majority of his scores were purchased by amateur musicians. Our project reunites this wonderful music for the pianists and singers who would have been Schubert’s earliest performers.
Students on The Schöne Müllerin Project study the songs across a period of two months, with group sessions taking place on weekends in April and May, 2017. Students work in pianist-singer duos, and give a joint presentation of the song cycle in two performances on the last weekend in May.
Students attend group sessions, including masterclasses, workshops, and lectures, and also take solo and duo coachings with our instructors, Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal. The course finishes with a faculty performance of the full cycle at the end of the first week of June.
In the opening three songs, the young miller follows a path laid out for him by nature – a stream that flows in the forest. He asks the stream what it will make of him, and it answers him by flowing toward a mill. He takes a position at the mill and soon becomes acquainted with the miller’s daughter, a fair maid whose voice the young man believes he heard foreshadowed in the soft murmuring of the stream. The miller maid inspires in him a powerful love, and he is swept away with the fantasy that she represents his hopes, and embodies all that may be good in the world. The girl befriends the young miller, but her eye falls elsewhere – she is already in love with a hunter, a much more powerful man. The young miller is heartbroken, and sings of his heartbreak. At the end of the story, the young miller again turns to the stream for guidance. Will it lead him to complete his earthly journey?
We hope you will consider joining us for the Schubert Song Project.
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