“An Adaptation of Die schöne Müllerin” Program Notes

September 6, 2015  |  Posted by in Die schöne Müllerin

An original composition by The Mitchells, inspired by the lyrics and music of Franz Schubert’s 1823 vocal-and-piano song cycle masterpiece Die schöne Müllerin (The Lovely Maid of the Mill).

Introduction: Das Wandern (original)

“Das Wandern” – The first song in the original Schubert work, performed by Harry Greenleaf. Listen to this first, it will give you a good reference point for where drew our inspiration from.

Act 1: Wandering (Das Wandern)

Just as in the original Die schöne Müllerin (DSM), the first song introduces the protagonists: the young wanderer and the stream – his meandering guide on a care-free journey through the peaceful woods. In The Mitchells’ “Wandering,” the alternating eighth notes that begin the piece are the voice of the stream. Simple, steady, but taking turns throughout its path. The vocals and lyrics – taken directly from the original Schubert work – are the voice of the wanderer. And the buoyant, syncopated guitar melody that enters after the first chorus is the happy melody he hums during his travels.

Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, Das Wandern (Wandering is the miller’s joy)
Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, Das Wandern
Das muß ein schlechterMüller sein (A man isn’t much of a miller)
Dem niemals fiel das Wander ein (If he doesn’t think of wandering)

Das Wandern
Das Wandern
Das Wandern
Das Wandern

We learned it from the stream, Vom Wasser
Vom Wasser haben wir’s gelernt, from water
It doesn’t rest by day or night, and only thinks of wandering

Das Wasser
Das Wasser
Das Wasser
Das Wasser

Sie Tanzen mit den muntern Reihn, Das Wandern (The millstones take part in the merry dance)
Und wollen gar noch schneller sein, O Wandern (And would go faster if they could)
Herr Meister und Frau Meisterin (Master and Mistress Miller)
Laßt mich in Frieden weiterziehn (Give me your leave to go in peace)

Und Wandern
And Wander
Und Wandern
And Wander

Act 2: The Questioner (Neugierige)

The second song introduces the title character, Die schöne Müllerin, or “The Lovely Maid of the Mill.” Represented by soft bell tones, the voice of the maiden intertwines with the uncertain path of the wanderer, who has been distracted from his journey (as represented by the “hard-to-pin-down” guitar melody).

Lyrics for this song are selected phrases (translations) from the original Schubert lyrics that highlight key story points and that thematically and poetically complement the underlying music. The erratically-timed ostinato of the vocal melody conveys the wanderer’s distraction from his carefree adventures, his hesitance over leaving his companion the stream, and his uncertain feelings for the beautiful girl.

The cold was sewn for everything
I move around so comfortably
Like blossoms in a rocky spring

Then I’ll know where hope resides
And then I’ll know where love presides

And If you come for every fall
If you come for every one
For life of one

We live together cozily
Moving out on everyone
Said moving out on everyone, my heart is full of everyone

In a green dew

My darling’s eyes shine bright and blue
The Miller’s daughter bright and blue
Please come out with everything
The sun will shine on everyone

But if I force on everyone,
That would be my darkest fear

Come out come out from your arched doors
Like flowers on the bank

The blue ones

Act 3: My Love! (Mein!)

The music for this piece will be well-known to The Mitchells’ followers as “Absalom.” Just as it was the epic centerpiece of their most recent orchestrally-minded album, the song provides an equally strong musical foundation for the key transition point in the DSM story.

During this act, the wanderer moves from courtship to falling in love; he believes that the maiden has also fallen in love with him. In the instrumental passages, the interplay between the oboe (the maiden) and the guitar melodies (the wanderer) is an elegant dance that almost intertwines, but never quite connects or harmonizes. While he is falling completely for her, she is merely playing along. A dark, ominous strain appears in the midst of the triumphant ending, a signal of the coming trouble…

Wait Love, Wait Love, Wait on Love
Hold back for a cold day later on
You dream your father’s mill stream
You know my walls stop everything
Get ready for me
Move around

Seasons chime
Seasons rhyme
Seasons go
We are nothing, we are nothing in the night!

So cold and tired
I feel cold
Poor lad he owned night and paid a Hunter’s Fee!

You dream but I feel nothing
You see but I know everything
You ride upon light
Without me

Seasons Chime
Seasons Rhyme
Seasons Go
You know nothing, You know nothing but the night.

Oh my love
Oh meine Love
Oh my Love
Oh my love

Act 4: The Favorite Color (Die liebe Farbe)

The Favorite Color introduces the hunter, who has won the true affection of the maiden – now bored with the courtship of all the millworkers. The wanderer’s resulting despair vacillates between a quiet intensity and outright rage.

This song takes strong musical inspiration from Schubert’s “Die liebe Farbe” (The Favorite Color). The bass guitar’s melodic sections are a direct arrangement of the “left hand” of the original Schubert piano composition (transposed into C minor and shifted to a 6/8 time signature).

The repetitive descending-eighth-note figure depicts the incessant meddling of the hunter. The bass guitar takes over as the voice of the wanderer, moving from monotonous to dramatically melodic. During a brief moment of respite, the voice of the maiden reenters, only to be overtaken by grief once again.

Listen to the original Schubert song, as performed by Ian Bostridge:

Act 5: The Water’s Lullaby (Des Baches Wiegenlied)

In the final act, the wanderer’s despair over love lost finally gives way to resignation. We witness his return to the icy stream – his unfailing friend – where he finds peaceful escape (by drowning himself).

The music is a re-imagination of The Mitchells’ song entitled “Tootchache,” which appears on their first studio recording (Bird Feather EP, 2012). This new arrangement captures the calm resignation of the wanderer, and nods to the gentle vibe of the final song in the original DSM (Des Baches Wiegenlied). The reappearance of the stream – the alternating eighth-note figure from Act 1 – is carried in various forms by guitars and bells. The story closes with a simple ascending and descending bass line, which resolves warmly and peacefully.

When you say
When you notice
That your ghost
In the door way
Is a double
In the bar
And you fall
Through a table

In the Dunes
In the doorway
When you yell
And you run
When you wake
With the Sun
With a bottle
With a gun

Its cold on Ice and
Its going on days
When your howling years become
Your howling does

When you say
When you notice
That your ghost
Is the door way
Its a double
Its a bar
And you fall
Through a table

Its cold on Ice and
They don’t kill
When its going on days
And they don’t come



Lyrics are also available in this blog post.

Program Notes for Premiere Performance

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 7pm
The Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, Ohio


Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin in 1823; the song cycle is based on poems by Wilhelm Müller and was the earliest song cycle to be widely performed. The twenty songs in the cycle evoke an emotional range from optimism to tragedy.

The story is simple: a young man wandering the countryside finds a mill at which a beautiful girl lives. She leads him on, he becomes obsessed, but she ultimately falls for a hunter. Desperate and heartbroken, the wanderer drowns himself in the millside brook.

Often performed and recorded, Die schöne Müllerin is one of Schubert’s most respected works.

ABOUT The Mitchells’ Adaptation

The Mitchells have composed a five-song adaptation of Die schöne Müllerin (DSM).

Lyrically, The Mitchells retell the original DSM story, sometimes using the original text (at points even using the original German) and sometimes using newly written lyrics.

Musically, The Mitchells have written entirely new songs which support and drive the story. While often borrowing themes and melodies from the original Schubert music, the new songs are new, original compositions (and not arrangements of Schubert for rock band instrumentation).

ABOUT The Mitchells

The Mitchells are:

  • Marc Aiello: Guitar
  • Nicholas Mavridoglou: Percussion
  • Carlos Mitchell: Vocals, Bass
  • Joseph W. Mitchell: Vocals, Guitar

Driven by their undying musical curiosity and love of experimentation, The Mitchells weave together the diverse threads of their musical histories and influences into a fresh, satisfying, and decidedly mature approach to indie pop songwriting.

Joining The Mitchells for this performance, Grammy-nominated producer and guitar player Ric Hordinski – referred to by knowledgeable musicians in the industry as the “guitarists’ guitarist” – will add his masterfully subtle guitar work to The Mitchells’ composition and performance.

FRANZ PETER SCHUBERT (born 1797; died 1828)

Franz Peter Schubert was among the first of the Romantics and the composer who, more than any other, brought the art song (lied) to artistic maturity. During his short but prolific career, he produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterized by rich harmonies, an expansive treatment of classical forms, and a seemingly endless gift for melody.

Schubert began his earliest musical training studying with his father and brothers. Having passed an audition, Schubert enrolled at the Convict school that trained young vocalists to sing eventually at the chapel of The Imperial Court. Schubert began to explore composition and wrote a song that came to the attention of the institution’s director, Antonio Salieri, who – along with the school’s professor of harmony – hailed young Schubert as a genius.

In 1813, after Schubert’s voice broke, he returned to live with his father, who directed him to follow in his footsteps and become a schoolteacher. Schubert begrudgingly complied and worked miserably in that capacity by day, while composing prolifically by night. He had written more than 100 songs as well as numerous symphonic, operatic, and chamber music scores, before he reached the age of 20.

Schubert finally left his teaching position to dedicate himself completely to musical pursuits. During the summer of 1818, the young composer worked as a private music teacher to the aristocratic Esterházy family. When he left that post in the fall, Schubert lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle, composing and spending time with a group of friends that acted as his personal support system.

In 1820, two opera houses – the Karthnerthor Theatre and Theatre-an-der-Wein – commissioned Schubert to compose a pair of operas. He wrote Zwillingsbruden and Zauberharfe, both unenthusiastically received. Schubert failed to secure a contract with a publisher, as none were willing to take a chance on a relatively unknown composer who wrote (harmonically) untraditional music.

Schubert, along with the support of his artistic friends, published his own work for a collection of roughly 100 subscribers. These efforts, however, were financially unrewarding, and Schubert struggled to sustain himself. His work garnered little attention, and contemporary composers dismissed his music as presumptuous and immature.

In 1823, Schubert won election to the Musikverein of Graz, as an honorary member. Though this brought no financial reward and was an inconsequential appointment, Schubert relished its slight recognition and – to show his gratitude – composed his famous Unfinished Symphony. Five years later, Schubert saw his music featured at a concert at Vienna’s Musikverein received quite enthusiastically and to much critical acclaim. This marked the only time during the composer’s life that he enjoyed such success. This seemed to provide Schubert with a renewed sense of optimism, and despite illness, the composer continued to produce at an incredible rate. He began to organize a scheme to increase his artistic popularity, by continuing to evaluate his work and progress as a musician, perhaps even planning to study harmony privately.

Schubert’s health did not improve, and he soon found himself at death’s door. During the composer’s last moments, he instructed his brother Ferdinand to bury him alongside Ludwig van Beethoven’s grave. Schubert revered the legendary composer and was grateful to him, as Beethoven had praised his work after hearing a selection of songs. Schubert also highly regarded the work of both Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Franz Schubert died of syphilis.

Despite his short life, Schubert produced a wealth of symphonies, operas, masses, chamber music pieces, and piano sonatas, most considered standard repertoire. His reputation rests primarily on his composition of hundreds of songs, including Gretchen am Spinnrade, and Erlkonig. He pioneered the song cycle, with such works as Die Schöne Müllerin, and Die Winterreise, and greatly affected the vocal writing of both Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler.

Biography by David Brensilver. Source: All Media Guide

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