SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 5 - Die Schone Mullerin (Christian Elsner/ Ulrich Eisenlohr) (Naxos: 8.554664)
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THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION 5
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
About The Edition
In 1816 Franz Schubert, together with his circle of friends, decided to publish a collection of all the songs which he had so far written. Joseph Spaun, whom Schubert had known since his school days, tried his (and Schubert's) luck in a letter to the then unquestioned Master of the German language, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
A selection of German songs will constitute the beginning of this edition; it will consist of eight volumes. The first two (the first of which, as an example, you will find in our letter) contains poems written by your Excellency, the third, poetry by Schiller, the fourth and fifth, works by Klopstock, the sixth by Mathison, Hölty, Salis etc., the seventh and eighth contain songs by Ossian, whose works are quite exceptional.
The Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition follows the composer's original concept. All Schubert's Lieder, over 700 songs, will be grouped according to the poets who inspired him, or according to the circle of writers, contemporaries, members of certain literary movements and so on, whose works Schubert chose to set to music. Fragments and alternative settings, providing their length and quality make them worth recording, and works for two or more voices with piano accompaniment will also make up a part of the edition.
Schubert set the poetry of over 115 writers to music. He selected poems from classical Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, from eighteenth-century German authors, early Romantics, Biedermeier poets, his contemporaries, and, of course, finally, poems by Heinrich Heine, although sadly the two never met.
The entire edition is scheduled for completion by 2008. Thanks to the Neue Schubert Ausgabe (New Schubert Edition), published by Bärenreiter, which uses primary sources - autograph copies wherever possible - the performers have been able to benefit from the most recent research of the editorial team. For the first time, the listener and the interested reader can follow Schubert's textual alterations and can appreciate the importance the written word had for the composer.
The project's Artistic Advisor is the pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, who has chosen those German-speaking singers who represent the élite of today's young German Lieder singers, performers whose artistic contribution, he believes, will stand the test of time.
"What one most admires about the way Schubert set poetry to music, is his ability to find an individual, characteristic style for each different author. His settings of Goethe, Heine, Müller, Mayrhofer, Pyrker and Ossian differ so markedly one from another that any experienced listener can be almost certain as to the identity of the poet without even looking at the words". These perceptive remarks were made in 1901 by Richard Heuberger in his book on Schubert's "life and character".
Wilhelm Müller was born in Dessau, in 1794 and died there only 39 years later. Despite the fact that more than forty composers, including Louis Spohr, Johannes Btahms and Hugo Wolf, set his work to music, he is only remembered today as the poet whose texts inspired Schubert's two song cycles: Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. During his lifetime Müller achieved renown as a writer and his poems were familiar to many, mostly in the form of songs. Heinrich Heine commented on their popularity among students in his travel journal Harzreise in 1824. He wrote to Müller directly two years later, praising his qualities as a poet: "How pure, how clear your songs are - and all of them folk songs!", and he went on to declare that "There is no other poet, besides Goethe, whom I hold as dear". He, Müller, had shown, "how new forms can be created based on the old, traditional folk song; forms that have lost nothing of the simplicity of the original, but without its clumsiness and awkward use of language".
Wilhelm Müller belonged to the generation of Romantics who, in their enthusiasm for freedom and independence, joined the Prussians, Austrians and their allies in their fight against Napoleon (the so-called 'wars of liberation' 1813/1814). These young men returned hoping to realise their dreams of political change and social improvement, but instead they were met with the rigidly conservative system of an apprehensive restoration. People retreated into the privacy of their homes, found comfort in apparently harmless social gatherings, and lived the life of 'Biedermeier'. Although the hopes that this generation had nurtured were hot entirely extinguished, they could only be expressed through certain channels and, even then, had to be carefully disguised. Over time, the negative aspects of the period were forgotten or ignored and the term 'Biedermeier' came to represent, in retrospect, a comfortable, even idyllic life-style. "Nevertheless," Wrote the art historian Ernst Heilborn, "there is as much evidence of struggle and contention in this as in any other age".
On his return front the wars of liberation Müller resumed his studies, became a member of a poets' society and joined the 'Berlin German Language Society'. Following the trend set by other young Romantics, he went about dressed in traditional German costume and wrote Minnelieder (songs of courtly love). He earned his living as a journalist and literary critic. Whilst travelling in Italy he began collecting folk songs. His first ten Songs from Greece made an impact all over Europe - one thousand copies were sold within the first six weeks - and the pamphlets which followed were equally successful. Together they earned the poet the name Griechenmüller (Müller the Greek). The anthologies were an attempt to attract Europe 's attention to the fight against oppression taking place in its cultural cradle.
Müller also wrote songs in traditional folk style that became very popular among Liedertafeln - groups that met for both social and singing purposes - which were springing up in towns and cities allover Germany. He referred to them as 'political chansons'; a term that would also have been applied to a text such as this: "And he who lives his life in strife and sorrow, let him drink from the old cask of the good old days!". ' Die krähe' (the crow) in Die Winterreise is another of his poems with a political aspect: a 'crow' was a nickname for an informer. The young grass sprouting through the snow symbolises the hopes for an end to the repressive society in which he was living. When Müller recommends in his introduction to Die schöne Müllerin that the poems be read in wintertime, something more than Romantic irony is intended.
Müller's cycle originated in a literary party game organised by a group of talented young people living in Berlin in 1816. They decided to stage a verse drama, each writing his or her own part, on the traditional folk theme: "The Fair Maid of the Mill". The heroine of the piece is wooed by the young miller, the gardener's boy, the hunte