SCHUBERT: Die schˆne M¸llerin

Roman Trekel brings his own sense of interpretation and nuance to
the present recording, such that the performance of individual songs is as noteworthy as
the overall effect of an emotional and narrative cycle. The writer Wilhelm
Müller, on whose poetic work the song-cycle is based, conceived the series of
texts with a frame, the outer poems being entitled “Der Dichter als Prolog” (“The Poet
as a Prologue”) and “Der Dichter als Epilog” (“The Poet as an Epilogue”). Although these
two poems were not originally set by Schubert as part of the cycle, the printed texts
are included in the notes to the present recording. The introductory poem functions as
an invitation to the listener and a means to whet the curiosity of those who would
gladly hear more of the adventures and hopes associated with the
“Müllersknecht” (“miller’s lad”). The ambivalence of optimism and frustration,
of the brook and the mill, are then summarized in the concluding poem, so that the
listener of the recording might reflect on the varying moods represented by singer and
accompanist in this performance.

Already in the first song, starting in Schubert’s cycle with “Das Wandern” [“Wandering”],
the characteristic motifs of water and stream combined with wandering during a journey
are effectively expressed through Trekel’s vocal colorations. Complementary rhythms of
voice and accompaniment suggest in Trekel’s and Oliver Pohl’s interpretation ? a
regular, external motion interwoven with inner contemplation and shifts in emotion.
Together with songs two and three of the presentation here, a triad of anticipation is
formed indicating motion toward the goal of the Müllerin who is first mentioned
in the fourth song, “Danksagung an den Bach” [“Thanksgiving to the Stream”]. Trekel’s
enunciation and emphases set up an intimate friendship and dialogue with the Bach, or
stream, that will lead him to the mill and the presence of the maid. In the second song,
“Wohin?” [“Whither?”], Trekel as wanderer enhances his relationship with the stream in
strophe two by intoning “hinunter” [“downward”] for the direction of his staff in order
to identify with the natural, vertical motion of the stream spilling from the rocks,
already described in the preceding strophe. In this dialogue with his partner in nature,
Trekel poses such requisite questions, as “War es also gemeint?” [“Is that what you
meant?”], with the suggestion of a secret communication that is, at once, fulfillment
yet anticipation. As part of this communication, Trekel’s vocal modulations suggest the
external ambitions of working at the mill together with the emotional and erotic
attractions for the maid. When he catches sight of the miller’s house in Song 3, “Halt!”
[“Stop!”], his voice descends to a whispering intimacy of discovery and wonder; here the
tone achieved by Trekel moves from self-reflective musing to further questions for his
confidante, the stream. As the lad attempts to adjust to the perception of his goals,
the possibilities are matched by Trekel’s varying his emphases between enthusiasm and
caution. Once he has reached the chance for fulfillment in both spheres ó labor and
emotion ó Trekel’s voice celebrates in a tone of peaceful satisfaction the conjoining of
the two at the close of Song 4, “Für die Hände,
für’s Herze / Vollauf genug!” [“For the hands,
for the heart / Enough and even more!”].

In the interpretation here achieved of Songs 5-11, Trekel’s persona remains in
the proximity of the maid and reflects on his opportunities to ensure an emotional
satisfaction. The progression of thought and feeling is underscored by the
singer’s and accompanist’s emphasis of thematic connections between
these songs, hence showing an inner development while the external activities remain
constant. The dew in the flowers of Song 10, “Des Müller’s
Blumen” [“The Miller’s Flowers”], is intoned to
prepare for the manifold associations of the tears in the immediately following song,
“Tränenregen” [“Shower of Tears”]. In
much the same way, the frenetic accompaniment of Song 7, “Ungeduld”
[“Impatience”], leads into the later peals of joy in Song 11,
“Mein!” [“Mine!”]: here Trekel’s eager
lad banishes the control of the steam and natural forces in general by announcing to all
that the maiden is “mein.”

Indeed the song “Mein” functions as a turning point after which the
softer and more contemplative tones of Trekel waver between shades that are realistic or
melancholy. At first the lad is so burdened with emotion that he cannot sing. He hangs
his lute on the wall with a green ribbon attached in the song
“Pause.” The use of “green,” with both positive
and negative associations, functions as a recurring motif throughout the second half of
the song-cycle. Although it is a color beloved of the maiden, her attentions are later
focused on a hunter also associated with hues of green. Incipient attempts by the lad to
please the maiden’s desire for the color alter with the jealousy and
disappointment seen in its very essence. Those songs before the final resignation of the
lad at the conclusion of the cycle display in this recording a range of competing
emotions. Trekel invests Song 16, “Die liebe Farbe,” [“The
beloved Color”], with a sense of elegiac sadness, so that the line
“Mein Schatz hat’s Grün so gern,” [“My
beloved likes green so much”] speaks still of his devotion with the
realization that she is lost to him. In the second strophe the call to a joyous hunt,
“Wohlauf zum fröhlichen Jagen!” [“Up we go to the
joyful hunt”!] gives in this performance the impression not of joy in the
wood, but rather of a funereal procession. An abrupt burst of feeling in the following
song, “Die böse Farbe” [“The dreadful
color”], signals for Trekel both a farewell to the maiden and a recurrence of
his earlier enthusiasm. Such energetic feelings are, however, short-lived, as Song 18,
“Trockne Blumen” [“Dried Flowers”], indicates.
Here Trekel addresses the flowers given him by the maiden, now destined for his grave,
and intones with poignant irony the most memorable verses in this recording:
“Der Mai ist kommen, der Winter ist aus” [“May has
arrived, winter has departed”]: his love, although unreciprocated, will match
the cycle of nature. The final song is given to the comforting voice of the stream,
“Des Baches Wiegenlied” [“Lullaby of the
Stream”], in a resolution that points to an ultimate resting place in nature.
In this longest song of the cycle, with an intricate strophic accompaniment, Trekel
varies his intonation by singing vowels with a distinctly full tone, in order to give a
different color to the voice of the stream. With an appropriate thematic gesture
recalling the start of the cycle, Trekel and Pohl conclude a performance that will
surely rank among the finest of Schubert’s “Schöne

Salvatore Calomino
Madison, Wisconsin

image_description=Franz Schubert: Dieschöne Müllerin
product_title=Franz Schubert: Dieschöne Müllerin
product_by=Roman Trekel, baritone; Oliver Pohl, piano.
product_id=Oehms Classics OC 511 [CD]