Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August
Oil painting, 1875, after a watercolor painting by Rieder of
a cycle of 24 poems
by Wilhelm Müller
, best known as the
set for male voice and piano
by Franz Schubert
. 911, published as Op
. 89 in 1827). It is the second of Schubert's
two great song cycles on Müller's poems, the earlier being
(D. 795, Op. 25, 1823). Both were originally
written for tenor
voice but are frequently
transposed to suit other vocal ranges - the precedent being
established by Schubert himself. These two works, in their scale,
their dramatic coherence and power, their musical and literary
unity, and their interpretative demands, stand in a league of their
own within the song-cycle genre. Indeed, although Ludwig van Beethoven
An die ferne Geliebte
(To the distant beloved) had been published earlier, in 1816,
Schubert's two cycles hold the foremost place in the history of the
Authorship and composition
was composed in two parts, each containing
twelve songs, the first group being set in February 1827 and the
second in October 1827. They were also published in two parts, by
, in January 1828
and in December of that year, after Schubert's death. Müller, a poet,
soldier, and Imperial Librarian at Dessau, died in
1827 aged 33, and probably never heard the first cycle let alone
the second. Die schöne Müllerin of 1823 had
become central to the performing repertoire and partnership of
Schubert with his friend, the baritone
singer Johann Michael Vogl, who
introduced Schubert and his songs into many musical households
great and small in their tours through Austria during the
Vogl, a literary and philosophical man accomplished in the classics
and the English language, came to regard Schubert's songs as 'truly
divine inspirations, the utterance of a musical clairvoyance.'
Schubert found the first twelve poems under the title Die
in an almanack (Taschenbuch: Urania
published in Leipzig in 1823. It was after he had set these, in
February 1827, that he discovered the full series of poems in
Müller's book of 1824 entitled Poems from the posthumous papers
of a travelling horn-player
, dedicated to the composer
Carl Maria von Weber
of Müller's son F. Max Müller), 'as a pledge of his friendship and
admiration'. Weber had died in 1826. On 4 March 1827, Schubert
invited a group of friends to his lodgings intending to sing the
first group of songs, but he was out when they arrived, and the
event was postponed until later in the year, when the full
performance was given.
Between the 1823 and 1824 editions Müller varied the texts
slightly, but also (with the addition of the further 12 poems)
altered the order in which they were presented. Owing to the two
stages of composition, Schubert's order in the song-cycle preserves
the integrity of the cycle of the first twelve poems published. In
the complete book edition Müller's final running-order was as
follows: Gute Nacht; Die Wetterfahne; Gefrorne Thränen; Erstarrung;
Der Lindenbaum; Die Post; Wasserfluth; Auf dem Flusse; Rückblick;
Der greise Kopf; Die Krähe; Letzte Hoffnung; Im Dorfe; Der
stürmische Morgen; Täuschung; Der Wegweiser; Das Wirthshaus; Das
Irrlicht; Rast; Die Nebensonnen; Frühlingstraum; Einsamkeit; Mut!;
Der Leiermann. Thus Schubert's numbers would run 1-5, 13, 6-8,
14-21, 9-10, 23, 11-12, 22, 24, a sequence occasionally attempted
by Hans Joachim Moser
Schubert's original group of settings therefore closed with the
dramatic cadence of Das Irrlicht, Rast, Frühlingstraum and
Einsamkeit, and his second sequence begins with Die Post.
Dramatically the first half is the sequence from the leaving of the
beloved's house, and the second half the torments of reawakening
hope and the path to resignation.
Schubert raises the importance of the
pianist to a role equal to that of the singer. In particular the
piano's rhythms constantly express the moods of the poet, like the
distinctive rhythm of Auf dem Flusse
, the restless
syncopated figures in Rückblick
, the dramatic tremolos in
, the glimmering clusters of notes in
, or the sharp accents in Der Stürmische
. The piano supplies rich effects in the Nature imagery
of the poems, the voices of the elements, the creatures and active
objects, the rushing storm, the crying wind, the water under the
ice, birds singing, ravens croaking, dogs baying, the rusty
weathervane grating, the posthorn
and the drone and repeated melody of the hurdy-gurdy
Opinions of Schubert's intentions
In addition to his landlord Franz von Schober, Schubert's friends
who often attended his 'Schubertiads' or musical sessions included
Eduard von Bauernfeld
von Spaun, and the poet Johann Mayrhofer. Both Spaun and Mayrhofer
describe the period of the composition of Winterreise
one in which Schubert was in a deeply melancholy frame of mind, as
Mayrhofer puts it, because 'life had lost its rosiness and winter
was upon him.' Spaun tells that Schubert was gloomy and depressed,
and when asked the reason replied, ' "Come to Schober's today and I
will play you a cycle of terrifying songs; they have affected me
more than has ever been the case with any other songs." He then,
with a voice full of feeling, sang the entire Winterreise
for us. We were altogether dumbfounded by the sombre mood of these
songs, and Schober said that one song only, Der
, had pleased him. Thereupon Schubert leaped up and
replied: "These songs please me more than all the rest, and in time
they will please you as well." '.
It is argued that in the gloomy nature of the Winterreise, compared
with the Schöne Müllerin
, there is a change of season,
December for May, and a deeper core of pain, the difference between
the heartbreak of a youth and a man. There is no need to seek in
external vicissitudes an explanation of the pathos of the
"Winterreise" music when the composer was this Schubert who, as a
boy of seventeen, had the imagination to fix Gretchen's cry in
music once for all, and had so quivered year by year in response to
every appeal, to Mignon
's and the Harper's
grief, to Mayrhofer's nostalgia. It is not surprising to hear of
Schubert's haggard look in the "Winterreise" period; but not
depression, rather a kind of sacred exhilaration... we see him
practically gasping with fearful joy over his tragic "Winterreise"
- at his luck in the subject, at the beauty of the chance which
brought him his collaborator back, at the countless fresh images
provoked by his poetry of fire and snow, of torrent and ice, of
scalding and frozen tears. The composer of the "Winterreise" may
have gone hungry to bed, but he was a happy artist."
Schubert's last task in life was the correction of the proofs for
part 2 of Winterreise, and his thoughts while correcting those of
the last song, Der Leiermann
, when his last illness was
only too evident, can only be imagined. However he had heard the
whole cycle performed by Vogl (which received a much more
enthusiastic reception), though he did not live to see the final
publication, nor the opinion of the Vienna Theaterzeitung:Müller is
naive, sentimental, and sets against outward nature a parallel of
some passionate soul-state which takes its colour and significance
from the former. Schubert's music is as naive as the poet's
expressions; the emotions contained in the poems are as deeply
reflected in his own feelings, and these are so brought out in
sound that no-one can sing or hear them without being touched to
the heart.'Elena Gerhardt
said of the
, "You have to be haunted by this cycle to be
able to sing it."
Nature of the work
In his introduction to the Peters
Edition (with the critical revisions of Max Friedländer
Professor Max Müller
, son of the
poet, remarks that Schubert's two song-cycles have a dramatic
effect not unlike that of a full-scale tragic opera, particularly
when performed by great singers such as Jenny
(Die schöne Müllerin) or Julius Stockhausen
Die schöne Müllerin
, Schubert's Winterreise
not merely a collection of songs upon a single theme (lost or
unrequited love) but is in effect one single dramatic monologue,
lasting up to an hour in performance. Although some individual
songs are sometimes included separately in recitals (e.g. Gute
, Der Lindenbaum
and Der Leiermann
is a work which is usually presented in its entirety. The intensity
and the emotional inflexions of the poetry are carefully built up
to express the sorrows of the lover, and are developed to an almost
pathological degree from the first to the last note. It has been
claimed that it would be impossible to write this work without
having experienced similar emotions in reality.
The songs represent the voice of the poet as the lover, and form a
distinct narrative and dramatic sequence, though not in so
pronounced a way as in Die schöne Müllerin
. In the course
of the cycle the poet, whose beloved now fancies someone else,
leaves his beloved's house secretly at night, quits the town and
follows the river and the steep ways to a village. Having longed
for death, he is at last reconciled to his loneliness. The cold,
darkness, and barren winter landscape mirror the feelings in his
heart, and he encounters various people and things along the way
which form the subject of the successive songs during his lonely
journey. It is in fact an allegorical journey of the heart.
The two Schubert cycles (primarily for male voice), of which
is the more mature, are absolute fundamentals
of the German classical vocal repertoire, and have strongly
influenced not only the style but also the vocal method and
technique in German classical music as a whole. The resources of
intellect and interpretative power required to deliver them, in the
chamber or concert hall, challenges the greatest singers.
Early on the wanderer sings about his beloved. As the
song cycle develops he starts to sing more about the problems of
being a beggar, dogs barking at him etc.
1. Gute Nacht
2. Die Wetterfahne
- By moonlight, in winter, the poet leaves the house as he came
to it, a stranger. The daughter has allowed their love to grow, and
the mother has encouraged the pair to think of marriage: but the
daughter's love has wandered to some new sweetheart. So he quietly
and secretly steals away while they are sleeping, writing 'Good
night' on her door, and leaving the path of his footsteps in the
3. Gefror'ne Tränen
- As he goes he notices the winds blowing the weather-vane around
on the house, and they blow him away from there as well. If he had
taken notice of that fickle sign when he first came, he would not
have expected to find a constant woman within. Indoors, their
hearts beat like the vane, but not so loud - what do they care for
his suffering, when their daughter will be a wealthy bride?.
- Frozen tears fall from his cheeks as he walks away, but the
breast from which they arise is so burning hot with feelings that
they should melt the winter ice completely.
5. Der Lindenbaum
- He looks in vain for her footprints in the snow, where they
formerly walked together arm in arm among the flowers and green
grass. He wants to kiss the ground and weep on it, until he can
dissolve the ice and see where they trod. But the flowers are all
dead, and he can take no remembrance of her away from there. His
heart is lifeless with her image frozen within; but if it thaws,
her beautiful image fades.
- He comes to the linden tree, with its pale flowers and
heart-shaped leaves. that stands at the gate; in the shade of this
tree he has dreamt many beautiful dreams, and in the bark he has
carved words of love. It was his favourite place. Now he passes it
with his eyes shut, even though it is deepest night, but the
branches rustle to him, 'Come here old comrade, find your rest
here'. A gust of wind blows his hat off, and many hours afterwards
he remembers the tree, and it seems to say 'You should have found
your rest here.' It is a tacit invitation to suicide. (In Die Schöne Müllerin by the
same author the rejected lover actually drowns himself and finds
rest in the friendly brook where he dies.)
7. Auf dem Flusse
- He weeps copiously and his tears fall in the snow. When the
Spring comes the snow will melt and flow into the river, and will
carry his tears to the house of his beloved.
- The river, usually busy and bubbling, is locked in frozen
darkness and lies drearily spread out under the ice. He will write
her name, and the date of their first meeting, in the ice with a
sharp stone. The river is a likeness of his heart: it beats and
swells under the hard frozen surface.
- His feet are freezing as the soles of his boots are out: but he
is eager to leave the town, and he stumbles over every stone. The
crows knock the snow off the eaves onto his hat from every house he
passes. But when he first came to that inconstant town, larks and
nightingales sang at the windows, the lime-trees blossomed, the
streams ran clear, and a pair of maiden's eyes shone on him and
stole his heart away. When he thinks of that happy day, he longs to
walk back along the road to the house where she lives.
(Will o' the wisp
- The will-o'-the-wisp has led him astray from the road in the
darkness: but he is always going off the road, for our joy and
sorrow alike are merely sports to delude us. He follows a track
down the crag side: all roads lead to their goal, every spring
flows to the sea, and every sorrow leads to the grave.
- He reaches a charcoal-burner's hut and, worn out by his long
trek through the snowstorm with a heavy backpack, he lies down to
rest. In the quiet his cuts and bruises sting sorely.
- He dreams he is wandering through meadows full of flowers and
bird-song in May: he heard the cock's crow and opened his eyes, but
it was a raven calling in the cheerless darkness. Who could draw
the flowers of ice he can see on the windows? He dreams again, of
love, and a maiden's kiss, and the joy and bliss of love, but again
the crowing wakes him and he sits up alone. He tries to sleep
again: when will the leaves at the window be green - when will she
hold him in her arms again?
13. Die Post
- He wanders along the busy road ungreeted. Why is the sky so
calm and the world so bright? Even in the tempest he was not so
lonely as this.
14. Der greise Kopf
- His heart leaps up as the post-horn sounds: they are not
bringing him a letter, but it has come from the town, and he will
ask if there is news of the beloved.
15. Die Krähe
- The frost in his hair made him think he was going grey, but now
it has thawed and his hair is still black. He has heard that some
people go grey overnight with sorrow, but though he has felt that
sorrow, it has not happened to him.
16. Letzte Hoffnung
- A crow has followed him all along the way from the town. Is it
waiting for him to die, so that it can eat him? It won't be long,
let it keep him company to the end.
17. Im Dorfe
- He wanders among the trees and fixes his gaze on one leaf,
which seems to hold his fate. It is a token: if it should fall from
the branch, his hope will fall. His heart sinks, and his soul weeps
the loss of everything.
18. Der stürmische Morgen
- People are asleep in the village and the dogs are barking. They
dream of many things and have their rest. Let the dogs drive him
away so that he does not rest with them - he is finished with all
(The Stormy Morning
- The tempest has driven the clouds about the sky, and the fiery
sun darts between them. It is like his heart, a cold, wild
20. Der Wegweiser
- A light on the dark and icy road at night, might be a warm
place to stay, or the deception of a beautiful face.
21. Das Wirtshaus
- Straying restlessly away from the roads, he still seeks rest.
There is always a signpost in front of him, pointing to the road
from which no wanderer returns.
- The 'wayside inn' is a lonely graveyard where he hopes to find
rest at last. The wreaths are the tavern sign, inviting him in. But
no - all the rooms are taken, and he must carry on, as he tells his
faithful walking staff.
23. Die Nebensonnen
- As the wind blows snow in his face, he sings loudly to silence
his thoughts of sorrow, so that he cannot hear or feel them. With
his trusty staff and cheerful song he'll just keep going on.
24. Der Leiermann
- He used to see three suns, but two of them (the eyes of his
beloved) have turned away to shine upon another, and now he sees
only one, and he wishes that would pass away and leave him to the
- At the end of the village he finds the old barefoot hurdy-gurdy
man, winding away his tunes, but no one has given him a penny, or
listens, and even the dogs growl at him. But he just carries on
playing, and the poet thinks he will cast in his lot with him. The
parallel with the singer singing his sad songs in the ice and the
slow, unresolved melody of the hurdy-gurdy concludes the cycle with
an eerily unfinished feel perfectly in character with the lonely
wandering of the singer.
Reworkings by others
- Franz Liszt transcribed half the
songs in the cycle for piano and may have intended to do them
- Leopold Godowsky made a number
of piano transcriptions of Schubert songs; the only one from
Winterreise was the first song, "Gute Nacht".
- Hans Zender orchestrated a version
of the cycle, altering the music in the process.
- John Neumeier made a ballet to
Winterreise on his Hamburg
Ballet company in December 2001.
- The deaf actor Horst Dittrich translated the cycle of poems
2007 into Austrian Sign Language and presented it on stage in a
production of ARBOS-Company for Music and Theatre on stage together
with Gert Hecher (piano) and Rupert Bergmann (bassbaritone) on
stage in 2008 in Vienna and Salzburg and 2009 in Villach (Austria)
directed by Herbert
Besides re-ordering Müller's songs, Schubert made a few changes to
the words: verse 4 of Erstarrung
in Müller's version read
"Mein Herz ist wie erfroren" (instead of "erstorben");
's verse 2 read "...unsre Freuden, unsre Wehen"
(instead of "Leiden") and Der Wegweiser
's 3rd verse
"Weiser stehen auf den Strassen" (instead of "Wegen"). These have
all been restored in Mandyczewski
's edition (the widely
available Dover score) and are offered as alternative readings in
's revision of
's edition for Peters. A few of the songs differ in
the autograph and a copy with Schubert's corrections.
was transposed by Schubert from f sharp to e
without alteration; Rast
moved from d to c and
from d to b, both with changes to the vocal
line; Der Leiermann
was transposed from b to a. The most
recent scholarly edition of Winterreise
is the one
included as part of the Bärenreiter "New Schubert Edition",
Walther Dürr, Volume 3, which offers the songs in versions for
high, medium and low voices. In this edition the key relationships
are preserved: only one transposition is applied to the whole
An online digital edition from Schubertline
presents the songs in original keys, but also offers the option of
printing them transposed to any key. The following table names the
keys used in different editions. Major keys are shown with upper
case letters, and minor keys with lower case letters.
||Autograph & copy
||Peters Edition of Friedländler (1884)
||Tiefer Alt oder Baß
|1. Gute Nacht
|2. Die Wetterfahne
|3. Gefror'ne Thränen
|5. Der Lindenbaum
||f sharp, changed to e
|7. Auf dem Flusse
||d, changed to c
||d, changed to b
|13. Die Post
|14. Der greise Kopf
|15. Die Krähe
|16. Letzte Hoffnung
|17. Im Dorfe
|18. Der stürmische Morgen
|20. Der Wegweiser
|21. Das Wirthshaus
|23. Die Nebensonnen
|24. Der Leierman
||b flat, changed to a
There are numerous recordings. Before 1936 are the complete 1928
version of Hans Duhan
with Ferdinand Foll
and Lene Orthmann, the incomplete Richard
version with Mischa
, and, lastingly famous, the version of Gerhard Hüsch
with Hanns Udo Müller
(1933, for which an
HMV limited edition subscription society was created). There is a
very powerful account by Peter Anders
with Michael Raucheisen
in Berlin in 1945. The Hans Hotter
account with Gerald Moore
1955) is very celebrated. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
, among the
most famous of exponents, is represented in several versions with
(issued November 1955 ,
and 1963, following Die schöne Müllerin
issued in 1953 and
1962), with pianist Jörg Demus
1960, with Alfred Brendel and also Daniel Barenboim. These, and the
discs of Peter Pears
with Benjamin Britten
(issued 1965), have all
long been considered outstanding, although Norman Lebrecht
placed the Pears/Britten
coupling among "20 Recordings that Should Never Have Been Made" in
book The Life and Death of
. Highly recommended versions from the
modern era include those of Thomas
with Charles Spencer
(1998, RCA), and Wolfgang Holzmair
with Imogen Cooper
- A. Robertson. Schubert - Winterreise (1965).
- Max Friedländer, in Franz Schubert - Sammlung,
'Textrevision zu Franz Schubert's Liedern', following page
- W. Rehberg, Franz Schubert, 338-39.
- Haywood 1939.
- R. Capell, chapter on "Winterreise".
- C. Osborne, 1955.
- Cited by William Mann, 1965.
- Rehberg 1946, 336.
- 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 inc.
- Classics Online
- biography of John Neumeier on Hamburg Ballet
"Illusion" by Franz Schubert and Wilhelm Müller on stage by Horst
Dittrich(Austrian Sign Language), Rupert Bergmann(bassbaritone) and
- German HMV, 24 sides, ER 270-272, 274-276, ES 383-386, 392-393:
see Darrell 1936, p. 414. CD: Prestige Recordings, HT S004.
- Polydor-Odeon, only songs 1,5,6,8,11,13,15,18,20,21,22,24); cf.
Darrell 1936, p. 414.
- Blom, 1933. Reissued from HMV DA 1344-1346 (10") and DB
2039-2044 (12"), World Records SH 651-652 transfer by Keith
Hardwick for EMI 1980.
- See Joseph Horowitz review in NYT 
- Columbia CXS 1222, CX 1223, reissued as Seraphim IC-6051 with
- HMV ALPS 1298-ALP 1299
- HMV ASD 551-552, sleevenotes by William Mann: Reissued in A
Schubert Anthology, EMI/HMV SLS 840 box set, BOX
- DGG LP 39 201-202.
- Decca Stereo, SET 270-271.
- Lebrecht, Norman. The Life and Death of Classical
Music. New York: Anchor Books, 2007, p. 289.
- Blom, Eric, Schubert's
"Winterreise", Foreword and analytical notes, (The
"Winterreise" Society, Gramophone Company, Ltd, London 1933), 32
- Capell, Richard, Schubert's songs (Ernest Benn, London
- Deutsch, Otto Erich,
Schubert: Die Erinnerungen seiner Freunde (Leipzig,
Breitkopf & Härtel 1957).
- Deutsch, Franz Schubert: Zeugnisse seiner Zeitgenossen
(Fischer-Verlag, Frankfort 1964).
- (E.M.G.), The Art of Record Buying (EMG, London
Dietrich, Schubert's Songs (Knopf, New York
- Haywood, Ernest, 'Terrifying Songs', Radio Times 20
- Mann, William, Schubert Winterreise, Sleevenote HMV
ASD 552 (Gramophone Co. Ltd 1955).
- Moore, Gerald, The Schubert
Song Cycles - with thoughts on performance (Hamish Hamilton,
- Müller, Wilhelm, Aus dem hinterlassenen Papieren eines
reisenden Waldhornisten, II: Lieder des Lebens und der
- Neuman, Andrés (Andres Neuman),
El viajero del siglo (Traveller of the Century).
Madrid: Alfaguara, 2009. XII Alfaguara Award of novel.
- Osborne, Charles, Schubert Winterreise, Sleevenote HMV
ALPS (Gramophone Co. Ltd 1955).
- Reed, John, The Schubert Song Companion (Manchester
University Press 1997).
- Rehberg, Walter and Paula,
Schubert: Sein Leben und Werk (Artemis-Verlag, Zurich
- Robertson, Alec, Schubert, Winterreise, Brochure
accompanying Decca SET 270-271 (Decca Records, London 1965).
- Schubert, Franz, Sammlung der Lieder kritisch revidirt von
Max Friedländer, Band I, Preface by Max Müller (Peters,