Hyperion Records

Müller, Wilhelm (1794-1827)  

Wilhelm Müller

born: 7 October 1794
died: 30 September 1827
country: Germany

Wilhelm Müller, nicknamed ‘Griechen-Müller’ (‘Greek Müller’) because of his interest in the Greek political cause, was born on 7 October 1794 in Dessau. He was the son of a shoemaker, the only child of six to survive. From the age of eighteen he studied philology and history in Berlin. In February 1813 he volunteered for the Prussian army and fought in the battles against Napoleon at Lützen, Bautzen, Hanau and Kulm. After visits to cities as far apart as Prague and Brussels he returned to Dessau and resumed his university studies in 1815. On 18 October of that year he wrote a famous diary entry which makes us regret that Schubert and the poet were never to meet: ‘I can neither play nor sing, yet when I write verses I sing and play after all. If I could produce the tunes, my songs would please better than they do now. But courage! A kindred spirit may be found who will hear the tunes behind the words and give them back to me.’ As Alec Robertson has written: ‘They were, indeed, given back to him in undreamt-of measure.’

In actual fact Müller was probably referring to someone he had met already, the composer Ludwig Berger (1777–1829) who was a (slightly older) member of the poet’s circle of Berlin friends. This group of lively young minds, which gathered at the home of Friedrich von Stägemann, included such important personalities as Achim von Arnim and Wilhelm Hensel. The Liederspiel games, half poetry and half music, with which these creative young people entertained themselves formed the basis of the work which eventually became Die schöne Müllerin.

Müller’s exceptionally personable nature was always at its best in merry company, and he had a gift for friendship. Contacts with literary luminaries such as Tiedge, Brentano and Fouqué led to the inclusion of his work in the anthology Bundesblüthen in 1816. Soon afterwards he set off with Baron Sack on a visit to Egypt which included a stop in Constantinople (where the poet was lucky to escape infection from the plague) and finished up in Italy (1817) where he visited Naples and dallied in Rome. An eventual result of this visit was the publication of Rom, Römer und Römerinnen (1820), an engaging description of everyday life and literature in the Italy of that time. Müller seems to have had a great gift for languages and was a distinguished translator from English, notably of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. (It would not have escaped Müller’s notice that Marlowe, too, was the son of a shoemaker.) On his return to Dessau in 1819, Müller taught Latin and Greek in the local Gymnasium and was soon appointed Librarian to the Hofbibliothek by the reigning duke. In 1821 he married Adelheid Basedow who was a granddaughter of Johann Basedow, the celebrated educational reformer and pioneer of modern teaching methods. This marriage produced a son worthy of both his father and maternal grandfather: Max Müller (1823–1900), a great teacher, orientalist, philologist and linguist who was eventually to live in England where he became one of Oxford’s most famous academics.

Wilhelm Müller is chiefly remembered today (outside his musical connections that is) as the poet of Greece’s struggle for emancipation from the Turks. (The links with Byron are obvious, and both poets number a Maid of Athens among their lyrics.) Lieder der Griechen dates from 1821, and this was followed by Neue Lieder der Griechen (1823) and Neueste Lieder der Griechen (1824). This progression of ‘new’ and ‘newest’ songs ended with Missolunghi (1826). These poems reflect Müller’s own folksy and down-to-earth enthusiasm for Greek life. This was very different from the lofty Philhellenism widespread in this period. The poetry of Anacreon with its earthy hymning of wine, women and song was much to his taste, and his frank and open nature could not have been more different from that of aesthetes like Platen who saw in ancient Greek life a mirror and justification of their own forbidden sexual leanings. Müller was no respecter of great reputations and he seems to have been blind to the beauties of neoclassical Goethe; neither would he have enjoyed the classically inspired poems of Mayrhofer. However, these two among Schubert’s poets shared liberal sympathies common to the generation which had fought against the yoke of Napoleon. Like Mayrhofer, Müller did not always please the reactionary politicians terrified of revolution nurtured by students and intellectuals, and he was subject to his share of censorship – much less stringent of course than if he had been, like Schubert’s friend Johann Senn, an inhabitant of Vienna. His overwhelming interest in folk poetry via the Greeks played an important part in developing his taste for a German folk style which influenced many of his followers, Heinrich Heine chief among them. Today, and particularly to the lieder enthusiast, Müller’s poetry seems complementary to that of Josef von Eichendorff (1788–1857). Both fought in the Wars of Liberation against France, and both shared an interest in popular songs and the cult of the wandering lad – the Wanderbursch. In this way the minstrel of the Middle Ages was revived in popular fiction (cf. Müller’s Blumenlese aus den Minnesingern from 1816). Both poets were fond of travel, and they had an affection for Italy in common. They also both delighted in placing their narrators in the guise of soldier, student, sailor, huntsman, shepherd or fisherman. In the end it is the background and culture of the two men which differentiates them: Eichendorff the Roman Catholic from Silesia, Müller the Protestant from Dessau. The former was overtly religious in a number of his poems; the latter seldom talked about his faith – indeed Müller presents his winter traveller as a non-believer. Not all musicians found in his work the dark overtones unveiled by Schubert. Müller’s poetry was set a great many times by lesser composers, and the singability of his verse encouraged music written for cheery and hearty sing-songs rather than the more refined world of art-song in the salon. On 15 December 1822 he wrote a letter congratulating the composer Bernhard Klein (1793–1832) on ‘the musical animation of my verses’. Klein had set a number of the poems from Die schöne Müllerin. Müller continued: ‘My songs lead but half a life, a paper life of black and white … until music breathes life into them, or at least calls it forth and awakens it if it is already dormant in them.’ This concern with collaboration with a musician is amply illustrated by the final lines of Winterreise: the traveller–poet encounters a hurdy-gurdy player and wonders whether it is his destiny to work as part of a song-writing team. It is probably true to say that Müller, who knew nothing of Schubert’s music, would have been entranced by much of the composer’s Die schöne Müllerin – though, like Schubert’s friends, he might have been bewildered by some of Winterreise.

Although the poet was a slightly suspect liberal, his sheer likeability and good-heartedness won over the Dessau establishment. In 1824, shortly after his son’s birth, Müller was named a Hofrat at the early age of twenty-seven. He was a tireless contributor to a number of almanacs and yearbooks, both as a poet and a critic. These included the 1822 edition of Urania where, in the second and fourth of the Sechs Ländliche Lieder, Schubert found most of the text for Der Hirt am Felsen in 1828. The 1823 edition of the same almanac included the texts of the first twelve songs of Winterreise. In 1822 Müller had edited an important survey of seventeenth-century German poetry in ten volumes, and in 1821 and 1824 appeared the books (two volumes issued separately) by which all music-lovers remember him: Sieben-und-siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten. This anthology, fancifully purporting to be the posthumous papers of a travelling horn-player, included the texts of both Schubert cycles: Die schöne Müllerin appears in the first volume, and the second contained Die Winterreise (note that Schubert dropped the definite article from the title) in its full twenty-four-poem version. In 1826 the poet broadened his scholarly activities and became involved in the Encyclopädie of Ersch and Gruber. In the last year of his life he went on a journey to south-west Germany where he met with his Swabian friends Schwabb, Hauff and Uhland. He also visited Justinus Kerner, known to lovers of lieder through the songs of Schumann. In Müller’s honour Kerner hung a Greek flag (a black cross painted on a bright blue-and-white background) from an old tower outside his house. During the night a rainstorm and autumn mists washed away the blue background leaving on the flag only an ominous black cross – the so-called Leichenfahn, or symbol of death in the house. This was a portent, celebrated in a poem by Kerner, which was worthy of the protagonist of Winterreise. On 1 October 1827, a few days after returning home from his visit to Kerner, Wilhelm Müller died of a stroke. He was only thirty-three years of age.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997

Albums
'Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin' (CDA30020)
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
Buy by post £8.50 CDA30020  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
'Schubert: The Complete Songs' (CDS44201/40)
Schubert: The Complete Songs
Buy by post £150.00 CDS44201/40  40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
'Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 9 – Arleen Auger' (CDJ33009)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 9 – Arleen Auger
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDJ33009  Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40  
'Schubert: Winterreise' (CDA30021)
Schubert: Winterreise
Buy by post £8.50 CDA30021  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
'Schubert: Winterreise' (CDA68034)
Schubert: Winterreise
Buy by post £10.50 CDA68034  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Songs by Schubert's contemporaries' (CDJ33051/3)
Songs by Schubert's contemporaries
Buy by post £26.00 CDJ33051/3  3CDs  
'Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition' (HYP200)
Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition
HYP200  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2' (HYP20)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2
HYP20  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
On other labels
'Schubert: Winterreise' (CKD371)
Schubert: Winterreise
CKD371  Download only  
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
Am Bach viel kleine Blumen stehn  First line to Des Müllers Blumen, No 9 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Am Bach viel kleine Blumen stehn  First line to Müllers Blumen (Berger)
Am Brunnen vor dem Tore  First line to Der Lindenbaum, No 4 of Ländliche Lieder (Kreutzer)
Am Brunnen vor dem Tore  First line to Der Lindenbaum, No 5 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Am Feierabend  No 5 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Auf dem Flusse  No 7 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Auf einen Totenacker  First line to Das Wirtshaus, No 21 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Bächlein, lass dein Rauschen sein!  First line to Mein!, No 11 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Blümlein Vergissmein  No 21 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Danksagung an den Bach  No 4 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Das Mühlenleben  No 8 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Das Wandern  No 1 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust  First line to Das Wandern, No 1 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Das Wirtshaus  No 21 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Berghirt (Bürde)
Der Dichter, als Epilog  No 25 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Der Dichter, als Prolog  No 1 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Der du so lustig rauschtest  First line to Auf dem Flusse, No 7 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der greise Kopf  No 14 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D965 (Schubert)
Der Jäger  No 14 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Der Leiermann  No 24 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Leiermann (Banck)
Der Lindenbaum  No 4 of Ländliche Lieder (Kreutzer)
Der Lindenbaum  No 5 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Müller (Berger)
Der Müller und der Bach  No 19 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Der Neugierige  No 6 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Der Reif hat einen weissen Schein  First line to Der greise Kopf, No 14 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der stürmische Morgen  No 18 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Wegweiser  No 20 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Der Wind spielt mit der Wetterfahne  First line to Die Wetterfahne, No 2 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Des Baches Lied (Berger)
Des Baches Wiegenlied  No 20 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Des Müllers Blumen  No 9 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Des Müllers Wanderlied (Berger)
Die böse Farbe  No 17 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Die Krähe  No 15 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Die liebe Farbe  No 16 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Die Nebensonnen  No 23 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Die Post  No 13 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Die Post, Op 76 No 6 (Kreutzer)
Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Die Wetterfahne  No 2 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Drei Sonnen sah ich am Himmel stehn  First line to Die Nebensonnen, No 23 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Drüben hinter’m Dorfe  First line to Der Leiermann (Banck)
Drüben hinter’m Dorfe  First line to Der Leiermann, No 24 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Eifersucht und Stolz  No 15 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ein Licht tanzt freundlich vor mir her  First line to Täuschung, No 19 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Ein ungereimtes Lied  Additional poem of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Eine Krähe war mit mir  First line to Die Krähe, No 15 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Eine Mühle seh’ ich blinken  First line to Halt!, No 3 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Einsamkeit  No 12 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Erstarrung  No 4 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Erster Schmerz, letzter Scherz  No 18 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Es bellen die Hunde, es rasseln die Ketten  First line to Im Dorfe, No 17 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Es brennt mir unter beiden Sohlen  First line to Rückblick, No 8 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Fliegt der Schnee mir in’s Gesicht  First line to Mut!, No 22 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Fremd bin ich eingezogen  First line to Gute Nacht, No 1 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Frühlingstraum  No 5 of Ländliche Lieder (Kreutzer)
Frühlingstraum  No 11 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Gefrorne Tränen  No 3 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Gefrorne Tropfen fallen  First line to Gefrorne Tränen, No 3 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Gute Nacht  No 1 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Gute Ruh’, gute Ruh’!  First line to Des Baches Wiegenlied, No 20 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Gute, gute Ruh’!  First line to Des Baches Lied (Berger)
Guten Morgen, schöne Müllerin!  First line to Morgengruss, No 8 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Halt!  No 3 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Hätt’ ich tausend  First line to Am Feierabend, No 5 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Hie und da ist an den Bäumen  First line to Letzte Hoffnung, No 16 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Ich frage keine Blume  First line to Der Neugierige, No 6 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ich hört’ ein Bächlein rauschen  First line to Wohin?, No 2 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ich hört’ ein Bächlein rauschen  First line to Des Müllers Wanderlied (Berger)
Ich lad’ euch, schöne Damen, kluge Herrn  First line to Der Dichter, als Prolog, No 1 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Ich möchte ziehn in die Welt hinaus  First line to Die böse Farbe, No 17 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ich möchte ziehn in die Welt hinaus  First line to Der Müller (Berger)
Ich schnitt’ es gern in alle Rinden ein  First line to Ungeduld, No 7 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ich such’ im Schnee vergebens  First line to Erstarrung, No 4 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Ich träumte von bunten Blumen  First line to Frühlingstraum, No 5 of Ländliche Lieder (Kreutzer)
Ich träumte von bunten Blumen  First line to Frühlingstraum, No 11 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Ihr Blümlein alle  First line to Trockne Blumen, No 18 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ihr Blümlein alle  First line to Müllers trockne Blumen (Berger)
Im Dorfe  No 17 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
In die tiefsten Felsengründe  First line to Irrlicht, No 9 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
In Grün will ich mich kleiden  First line to Die liebe Farbe, No 16 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Irrlicht  No 9 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Kein Liedchen mehr!  First line to Ein ungereimtes Lied, Additional poem of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Ländliche Lieder (Kreutzer)
Letzte Hoffnung  No 16 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Manche Trän’ aus meinen Augen  First line to Wasserflut, No 6 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Mein!  No 11 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Meine Laute hab’ ich gehängt an die Wand  First line to Pause, No 12 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Mit dem grünen Lautenbande  No 13 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Morgengruss  No 8 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Müllers Blumen (Berger)
Müllers trockne Blumen (Berger)
Mut!  No 22 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Nun merk’ ich erst, wie müd’ ich bin  First line to Rast, No 10 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Nun sitz’ am Bache nieder  First line to Erster Schmerz, letzter Scherz, No 18 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Pause  No 12 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Rast  No 10 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Rückblick  No 8 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Schad’ um das schöne grüne Band  First line to Mit dem grünen Lautenbande, No 13 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Seh’ ich sie am Bache sitzen  First line to Das Mühlenleben, No 8 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Täuschung  No 19 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Tränenregen  No 10 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Trockne Blumen  No 18 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Ungeduld  No 7 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Von der Strasse her ein Posthorn klingt  First line to Die Post, Op 76 No 6 (Kreutzer)
Von der Strasse her ein Posthorn klingt  First line to Die Post, No 13 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
War es also gemeint  First line to Danksagung an den Bach, No 4 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Was sucht denn der Jäger am Mühlbach hier?  First line to Der Jäger, No 14 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Was treibt mich jeden Morgen  First line to Blümlein Vergissmein, No 21 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Was vermeid’ ich denn die Wege  First line to Der Wegweiser, No 20 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Wasserflut  No 6 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Weil gern man schliesst mit einer runden Zahl  First line to Der Dichter, als Epilog, No 25 of Die schöne Müllerin (Müller)
Wenn auf dem höchsten Fels ich steh’  First line to Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D965 (Schubert)
Wenn auf dem höchsten Fels ich steh’  First line to Der Berghirt (Bürde)
Wie eine trübe Wolke  First line to Einsamkeit, No 12 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Wie hat der Sturm zerrissen  First line to Der stürmische Morgen, No 18 of Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Winterreise, D911 (Schubert)
Wir sassen so traulich beisammen  First line to Tränenregen, No 10 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Wo ein treues Herze  First line to Der Müller und der Bach, No 19 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Wohin so schnell, so kraus und wild, mein lieber Bach?  First line to Eifersucht und Stolz, No 15 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
Wohin?  No 2 of Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (Schubert)
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