Franz Peter Schubert (31.01.1797 – 19.11.1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his early death, arising from from typhus and syphilis, Schubert left behind a vast output of fine music. He wrote more than 600 songs (or lieder), more than a dozen string quartets and 21 piano sonatas; he completed seven symphonies, with many more left unfinished; he wrote operas, masses, piano trios and duets. Yet there was only one public performance of his music during his lifetime.
His most important works include the Piano Quintet in A major, D667 ‘The Trout’ (see Work 6 in our collection), his last three Piano Sonatas Nos. 19 – 21, his String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 ‘Death and the Maiden’, the Symphony No. 9 in C major, D944 ‘The Great’, Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759 ‘Unfinished’ and his two great song cycles Winterreise D911 and Die schöne Müllerin, D795.
When it first appeared in 1823, Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Maid of the Mill) was unique: a set of twenty interlocked songs for voice and piano with a continuous, first-person narrative, based on poems by Wilhelm Müller. Schubert set only twenty of Müller’s 25 poems in his finished song cycle, omitting those that elucidated the character of the miller-girl to make her seem more an idealization of love than a recognizable human participant in the story. In short, the cycle’s dramatic progression can be summarised thus “The miller goes wandering, the awakening of love, his hopes for love’s realization, the delusion that his love is reciprocated, the arrival of the hunter and the miller-maid’s attraction to him, the miller’s despair and death.”
Despite being over 50 years old, our preferred version remains the 1961 EMI recording of the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the pianist Gerald Moore.