The song cycle is a cycle of romances or songs which are united by the common idea and musical thematic. This is the analogy to the poetic cycle in literature. The first song cycle was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. In the first half of the 19th century the Austrian romantic composer Franz Peter Schubert created his song cycles Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Maid of Mill) and Winterreise (The Winter Trip). Schubert was a leading composer of lieder that means “songs” (The World Book Encyclopedia, 187) and an author of round 600 songs, nine symphonies, and numerous chamber and solo piano music. The interest to the music by Schubert used to be medium during his lifetime but it extremely rose up after his death. His works are not losing their popularity till this time and are among the most famous examples of classical music.
In 1814 when Schubert was seventeen he wrote Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel). Originally it was a selection of the texts of the most famous works by Goethe Faust which Schubert made to composer’s first successful work.
For the creation of his best song cycle Die schöne Müllerin Schubert set to music most of the poems by Wilhelm Müller which were published in 1820. Though during 1823 the composer was ill with venereal disease, he continued to compose (The Encyclopedia Americana, 274). While he was writing his opera Fierrabras, in 1823 he finished the cycle. At the time he was 26. Schubert did not use some poems, such as a prologue and an epilogue. The next step in 1824 was the publishing of this work which has got the final name which sounded Die schöne Müllerin, ein Liederzyklus, gedichtet von Wilhelm Müller, in English it means “The beautiful maid of the mill, the song cycle, based on Wilhelm Müller’s poems”.
Later Schubert also cooperated with Müller when he used his texts for the composing of another song cycle Winterreise (The Winter Trip).
The cycle Die schöne Müllerin consists of twenty songs which pretty different are. Their mood varies from cheerful optimism to tragedy and despair. Nearly a half of the poems are in simple strophic form. The whole cycle is a story about a young traveller. It begins with his happily travelling through the countryside. He reaches a brook which leads to the mill. He comes there and he falls in love with the lovely daughter of the miller. This is the base of the title Die schöne Müllerin, because the word “Müllerin” means a “maid of mill”. As the young man is just a traveller, she is approachless for him. Though he hopes to impress her and does his best, but it seems that it does not help him. Soon the young traveler gives her a green ribbon and it becomes the “colour of the song” Die liebe Farbe. As a result, he becomes obsessed with the green colour, then an extraordinary fantasy of the death in which the flowers grow in the place of his grave in order to express his love which will never die. In the end of the story, the young traveller desperately drowns himself in this brook which once led him to his eternal love. The last song is a lullaby upon the brook. The main question of the cycle, which remains open, is about the brook. Is it a friend of the miller or is it his foe, comparing with the hero of famous Faust legend Mephistopheles. Perhaps it is the reason which leads the miller to his destruction and downfall.
In general I am fond of Schubert’s music. I enjoy listening to all of these songs. I like the whole idea and a sad story about unhappy love. Especially I like the Das Wandern because I find it the most positive one and I like the general topic of the song about the travelling which in this case means the movement. It is very different to the Tränenregen where the mood is really sad. It is not odd because the name of this song is showing what it is about and when you are going to listen to that you are already prepared what it will be like. To compare these two songs it may be said that Das Wandern pushes to the life and encourages to live and to move on. In addition to that in the text it is compared that the real miller tends to move like water and wheels do. It is said that only stones lay and do not move. On the other hand Tränenregen is gloomy. The lyrics are about the loneliness and the aspiration to observe everything indirectly, here through the mirror of water. Perhaps that means the denial to accept the reality as it is. It shows the feeling of the young man from the story. It is hard for him to love the girl which is not even interested in him. He refuses to accept that fact.
Another positive song that I like is Die liebe Farbe (The Beloved Colour) is one of the best loving songs ever. Recently he gave the young miller’s daughter the green ribbon because it is her favourite colour. And now he is singing that he wants to wear green. As she likes this colour she might like him when he will be the part of that. The green is also the colour of development so it is also used here to show that this feeling is always growing. He is even ready to die for love. He calls his beloved girl “Mein Schatz” that means “my treasure” to show how he values her. “His treasure” likes hunting, but the only wild animal he wants to hunt is his need to love her.
The song Des Baches Wiegenlied is an extraordinary lullaby. The beginning is very soothing but it turns to be a little bit sinister in the middle and in the end goes back to the soothing melody again. The first words are about cosy calm falling asleep but, as this is a lullaby for a man who travels a lot, the melody turns to be stronger to show what he is dreaming of. The life of traveller is never calm even in his dreams, especially after that day when he fell in love with the young girl. This is the post mortal lullaby dedicated to a man who could not get a love of the girl he was dreaming of and he did not find any other solution as the death. This is the tragic ending of the one-way love.
It is my old dream to attend a concert where the Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin is performed and I would like to attend other concerts of the composer’s music. I would like to listen to the performance by different singers to compare it in the real life and contrast the atmosphere in the various concerts. I think that it depends a lot on who is singing because the one singer feels the song otherwise than the other one. I already listened to performances by a few singers as Dietrich Fischer, Paul Kuhn, Ian Bostridge, and others. I came to the conclusion that I like the performance by Julius Patzak the most because I think his voice suits the best to the character of the hero.