Die schöne Müllerin

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Die schöne Müllerin
Song cycle by Franz Schubert
Opening page of the cycle, as published in Franz Schuberts Werke, Serie XX: Sämtliche Lieder und Gesänge, Nos. 433–452, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1894–95, ed. Eusebius Mandyczewski]]
Catalogue Op. 25; D. 795
Text poems by Wilhelm Müller
Composed 1823 (1823)
Published 1824 (1824)
Movements 20
  • tenor
  • piano

Die schöne Müllerin (Op. 25, D. 795), is a song cycle by Franz Schubert based on poems by Wilhelm Müller. It is the earliest extended song cycle to be widely performed. Considered one of Schubert's most important works, it is the first of his two seminal cycles (the other being his later Winterreise), and a pinnacle of Lied. It is widely performed and recorded.

Die schöne Müllerin is performed by a pianist and a solo singer. The vocal part falls in the range of a tenor or soprano voice, but is often sung by other voices, transposed to a lower range, a precedent established by Schubert himself. Since the story of the cycle is about a young man, the work is most often sung by men. The piano part bears much of the expressive burden of the work, and is only seldom a mere 'accompaniment' to the singer. A typical performance lasts around sixty to seventy minutes.


Müller's poems were published in 1820, and Schubert set most of them to music between May and September 1823, while he was also writing his opera Fierrabras. He was 26 years old at the time. Schubert omitted five of the poems, such as a prologue and an epilogue delivered by the poet. The work was published in 1824 by the firm of Sauer and Leidesdorf as Op. 25 under the title Die schöne Müllerin, ein Zyklus von Liedern, gedichtet von Wilhelm Müller, which means, "The Lovely Maid of the Mill, a song cycle to poems by Wilhelm Müller", and was dedicated to Carl von Schönstein (de).


Portrait of Schubert by Franz Eybl (1827)

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 young journeyman miller wanders happily through the countryside. He comes upon a brook, which he follows to a mill. He falls in love with the miller's beautiful daughter (the "Müllerin" of the title). She is out of his reach as he is only a journeyman. He tries to impress her, but her response seems tentative. The young man is soon supplanted in her affections by a hunter clad in green, the color of a ribbon he gave the girl. In his anguish, he experiences an obsession with the color green, then an extravagant death fantasy in which flowers sprout from his grave to express his undying love. (See Beethoven's "Adelaide" for a similar fantasy.) In the end, the young man despairs and presumably drowns himself in the brook. The last number is a lullaby sung by the brook.


The Diabelli edition of 1830 in a facsimile score, with notes by Walther Dürr, was published (1996) by Bärenreiter. The version in most common use is the Peters Edition, edited by Max Friedlaender, and in this and several other editions (e.g. Schirmer) the cycle is presented as the first 20 songs of Volume 1. There are versions in the original (high) keys, and transposed alternatives for lower voices. The Peters edition was revised by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elmar Budde, and is available as Volume 1 of the Peters Urtext Edition,[1] available in high, medium and low key versions. The most recent scholarly edition is in the New Schubert Edition, again edited by Walther Dürr and published by Bärenreiter,[2] and contains transposed versions for lower voices.

Six of the songs were transcribed for solo piano by Franz Liszt and published as Müllerlieder.[3]


  1. "Das Wandern" ("Wandering"; B major): "Wandering is the miller's joy" – a journeyman Miller happily travels through the countryside, singing of the restless water, millstones, and millwheels of his trade. A strophic song in which the accompaniment is traditionally made to imitate the various objects about which the Miller sings.
  2. "Wohin?" ("Whither?"; G major): "Is this my path then? Oh tell me, brook, where to?" – the Miller fatefully comes across a brook, and is captivated into following it. Through-composed, the piano imitates the babbling brook with a ceaseless broken chord pattern.
  3. "Halt!" ("Stop!"; C major): "Dear little Brook, is this what you meant?" – the Brook leads the Miller to an idyllic mill in a forest grove. Through-composed, the piano imitates the vigorous turning of the mill wheel. Subtle diminished and minor harmonies in the accompaniment hint at foreboding.
  4. "Danksagung an den Bach" ("Thanksgiving to the Brook"; G major): "Did she send you? Or have you enchanted me?" – The grateful Miller thanks the Brook for providing work for his hands and his heart – the latter in the form of the beautiful maid of the mill, the Müllerin of the title. Through-composed, with a contemplative broken chord pattern in the accompaniment, and a section in parallel minor as the Miller questions the nature of the Brook's guidance.
  5. "Am Feierabend" ("Evening’s Rest"; A minor): "If only I could move the millstones alone! Then the beautiful maiden would know my true purpose!" – the Miller is troubled when the Maiden wishes a good night to all the men, paying him no particular attention – if only he could distinguish himself from his peers! The piano imitates the restless wheel and pounding millstones in this through-composed song; highly contrasting music in the central section illustrates the restful after-work setting of the title.
  6. "Der Neugierige" ("The Inquirer"; B major): "Tell me, little Brook – does she love me?" – he asks the enigmatic brook whether the Maiden loves him – Yes or No – between these two words lies his entire world. An expressive through-composed song opening with a musical question in the accompaniment – a rising pattern ending on a diminished chord. A slow, contemplative second section follows as the Miller interrogates the Brook.
  7. "Ungeduld" ("Impatience"; A major): "My heart is yours, and it will be forever!" – he wishes he could carve his love into every tree, have every bird sing of it, have the wind tell of it. A strophic song in which a busy, restless repeated chord pattern in the accompaniment reflects the Miller's excited and agitated state.
  8. "Morgengruß" ("Morning Greeting"; C major): "Does my greeting displease you so?" – the Miller is troubled by the Maiden's cool reaction to his morning greeting – he will just wait outside her window. A ballad in strophic form that progressively gathers expressive energy as the metric subdivision increases over each stanza.
  9. "Des Müllers Blumen" ("Of the Miller’s Flowers"; A major): "The flowers will whisper to her as in a dream: forget me not!" – the Miller indulges in a poetic metaphor between the blue flowers beside the brook and the Maiden's blue eyes. The Miller's outpouring is matched with a lyrical arpeggio pattern and gently rocking 6/8 rhythm in this strophic song. This is the only song in the cycle with no outro music, which is unusual in Schubert. The lack of even the most minimal unwinding of the accompaniment prepares a segue into the next song.
  10. "Tränenregen" ("Rain of Tears"; A major): "She said: 'A rain is coming, farewell, I'm going home'" – the Miller and Maiden share a tender moment by the Brook – the three main characters in one place. The Miller cannot bring himself to look at her, and stares into the Brook at the moon and her reflection. As his tears ripple in the water, she abruptly leaves. Augmented harmonies and lyrical counterpoint in the accompaniment again imitate the brook and add to the nocturne atmosphere. The form is primarily strophic, with a shadowy coda in the parallel minor as the Maiden takes her leave.
  11. "Mein!" ("Mine!"; D major): "Are these all the flowers you have, spring? Can you not shine brighter, sun?" – the ecstatic Miller is convinced he possesses the Maiden. A manic and heavy-handed accompaniment in broken chords, low in register with thick voicings, reflects the slightly unhinged and effusive Miller in this through-composed song.
  12. "Pause" ("Interlude"; B major): "Is it the echo of my love's pain? Or the prelude to new songs?" – the Miller, his heart too full to sing, hangs his lute on the wall with a green band and reflects on the heavy burden of happiness. He muses anxiously whether the stirrings of his lute are ominous. Through-composed, a repetitive lute-like motif and static harmony in the accompaniment create the interlude atmosphere. Dissonant minor harmonies reflect the Miller's misgivings before they are shrugged off in the outro.
  13. "Mit dem grünen Lautenbande" ("With the Green Lute-Ribbon"; B major): "Wind the green band into your locks, since you like green so much" – the Maiden mentions she likes green, and the Miller is happy to oblige, giving her the band as a symbol of their evergreen love. He tries to convince himself that he too likes green, though he is white with flour. Strophic, in short verses with flourishes idiomatic of the lute, the saccharine melody and accompaniment reflect the Miller's somewhat deluded optimism.
  14. "Der Jäger" ("The Hunter"; C minor): "There is no game here for you to hunt! Only a doe, a tame one, for me!" – a rough and dashing Hunter arrives at the mill; Miller is disturbed by this romantic rival. In strophic form, the piano imitates hunting horns in a brash staccato 6/8 rhythm.
  15. "Eifersucht und Stolz" ("Jealousy and Pride"; G minor): "Where to so fast and wild, dear brook? Turn back, and scold your maiden!" – the Miller compels the Brook to admonish the fickle Maiden, who has been flirting with the Hunter. Through-composed, the agitated accompaniment imitates the now-raging Brook, with a central section again imitating hunting horns.
  16. "Die liebe Farbe" ("The Beloved Colour"; B minor): "Dig me a grave in the green meadow, cover me with green turf, my sweetheart likes green so much" – the catatonic Miller obsesses miserably over green, the color of his love and his pain. An ostinato on F# repeated over 500 times in the accompaniment across the strophic verses reflects the Miller's tortured fixation. The accompaniment follows the voice melody in lower harmony. The strophic structure is identical to Mit dem grünen Lautenbande; the lyrics for either song could be readily substituted over one another's accompaniment.
  17. "Die böse Farbe" ("The Hateful Colour"; B major): "Oh green, you hateful color you! So proud, so mocking, so pleased with my pain!" – the Miller bitterly and defiantly renounces the color green. He wishes only to take the Maiden's hand one last time to say farewell. In a through-composed rondo form, the brash operatic accompaniment again includes a hunting horn imitation in the second episode. In the parallel major of the preceding song, the two are an opposed pair.
  18. "Trockne Blumen" ("Withered Flowers"; E minor): "And when she passes my grave, she will think 'He was true to me!'" – the Miller wishes to be buried with the withered flowers the Maiden gave him. When she sees this, she will know his heart was faithful; then, the flowers will bloom again, and winter will have passed. Through-composed, the accompaniment at first represents the withered flowers with a minimalist series of simple chords – as the flowers bloom, the music becomes more lyrical and chords and rhythm develop.
  19. "Der Müller und der Bach" ("The Miller and the Brook"; G minor): "Oh dear little brook, you mean so well – but do you know what love does to you?" The hopeless Miller turns to the Brook in his heartbreak. The Brook answers with comforting and poetic words of love conquering pain. Resigned and exhausted, the Miller submits himself to the Brook's 'cool rest'. Through-composed, the gently rocking barcarolle-like accompaniment gives way to a broken chord pattern similar to that of Wohin, imitating the Brook as this character speaks for the first time. The outro sees the piano descend peacefully to a final major chord as the Miller meets his fate.
  20. "Des Baches Wiegenlied" ("Of the Brook’s Lullaby"; E major): "And heaven above, how vast it is!" – the dear little Brook, who has always shown the Miller the love and constancy he so desired, sings him to sleep. A peaceful strophic song, this idiomatic lullaby is by a considerable margin the longest entry in the cycle. The choice of E major, a tritone removed from the opening song, signifies the vast narrative distance covered by the cycle.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-03-12. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  3. ^ Publisher's note pp. ix–x in Franz Liszt: The Schubert Song Transcriptions for Solo Piano: Series II: The Complete Winterreise and Seven other Great Songs, 1996, Mineola, N.Y., Dover Publications

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