The journeyman miller
Schubert's 'Die Schöne Müllerin' -
'It will be clear enough by now with what tenderness and sensitivity Werner Güra performs these songs.'
Wilhelm Müller, author of the Schöne Müllerin poems,
was as concerned with Greek independence as Byron and died even younger,
though as a librarian in Dessau rather than a would-be warrior at Missolonghi.
He secured Mendelssohn as godfather for his son Max, who became an Oxford
professor. The poems Schubert set are said to have originated in family
charades. They have none of the philosophical depths Schubert had already
plumbed with his Goethe music, and in their original form were designed
as songs for a play to entertain Müller's Berlin friends. Müller
lamented his own inability to play or sing but was aware that his poetic
sequence cried out for music. The poems were first set by Ludwig Berger
in Berlin; Bernhard Klein then tackled some of them and earned Müller's
gratitude, who wrote that his poems managed only a black and white existence
'until music breathe life into them, or at least calls it forth and awakens
it if it is already dormant in them'.
Copyright © 26 June 2002
Robert Anderson, London, UK