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Wohin? from Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin

Guest Author - Gillian Buchanan

Wohin is the second song of Franz Peter Schubert's song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin.

In Wohin? (which can be translated as Whither? or Where to), the young miller who narrates the story has set off on his journey and the second protagonist appears in both the music and the poetry. The piano accompaniment is a wonderful rippling arpeggio throughout which perfectly paints the sound and feel of a brook, just as Schubert had done in his earlier song Die Forelle (The Trout). The melody of the song floats over this to make a seamless whole, forming as near perfect a Leid as you will ever find.

The overall key of the song is G major, moving to the minor at Verse Four, when the miller starts to wonder whether the path is of his choice or of someone else's. It is a significant change, for in the poetry Müller hints at water sprites in the brook, who were not benign creatures in the early 19th century as they would drag those who heard them to their deaths. A modern interpretation of this theme can be found in Hans Werner Henze's ballet Ondine (first performed in 1958), in which a similar disastrous end befalls those involved with the water sprites.

The brook therefore can be seen as a participant in the background of the whole story, drawing the young miller to his fate and ultimately to his death. Several times in the song the miller wonders why he is being drawn on this particular path and even he realises that he is almost under some kind of enchantment. However eventually he does go on his way and the song is completed with its almost magical refrain "fröhlich nach".

Wohin is a short poem in five verses, but Schubert splits it into two sections. It is the second section which goes into the minor and, interestingly, Schubert does not complete the music with the last two lines of the poem but with the first and second line of the final verse. Finally he repeats the words "fröhlich nach", finishing on a long note as the song draws to a close.

This is one of the greatest of the Die Schöne Müllerin leider, well worth taking out and listening to on its own. It isn't often sung on its own in a recital, as it is so much a part of the song cycle. However, like all the songs from this work it's worth getting to know on its own terms as it is so enjoyable to listen to - and sing along with!

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Das Wandern by Franz Schubert
Die Schone Mullerin by Franz Schubert
Schubert's Song Die Forelle, The Trout
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Content copyright © 2014 by Gillian Buchanan. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Gillian Buchanan. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown for details.

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