Perhaps Lehmann’s recording of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin isn’t as famous as her Winterreise, but she did teach almost the whole cycle at Northwestern University and painted a work for every song, so she obviously valued the cycle. We’ll combine these elements in the following pages. Wilhelm Müller (1794–1827) was the poet for the cycle. Except for “Ungeduld” which she recorded with Ernö Balogh in 1935, Lehmann recorded the remaining songs of the cycle with Ulanowsky in 1942. At this point in her life, Lehmann’s flexibility was inadequate for some of the songs. But for the majority of them, she brings her indelible interpretive genius and joy in singing. The July 1967 Northwestern University class was prepared and accompanied by Laurence Davis. Lehmann often asks the students to leave off a verse or more. The translations are based on those of Emily Ezust from her website: www.lieder.net

In Lehmann’s book Eighteen Song Cycles she writes extensively on Die schöne Müllerin. For the first song, “Das Wandern,” she advises the singer to “begin with a buoyant tempo as if you were wandering along briskly and were enjoying looking around you….In the last verse your recurrent farewell to the master and the mistress [of the mill] is without any sadness, even free of any regret. You are just a young apprentice, you work where you find a mill and go upon your way singing happily.”

Noted vocal critic Alan Blyth wrote for the Naxos Lehmann CD of Lieder by Schubert and R. Strauss. He also refers to Eighteen Song Cycles; I broaden his article in brackets.

In the aforementioned book, Lehmann gives a subjective analysis of each song in the cycle. She follows her own injunction in “Wohin?” to start the piece as if the protagonist were listening to something which is far away and then obeys her suggestion for an accelerando at “Hinuter und immer weiter,” as if the singer is driven by a power that has to be obeyed. In the next song, “Halt!,” she enters into the “joyful excitement” she mentions at the start, sings “Ei Willkommen” with typical Lehmann warmth, and brings a smile to “Ei Bächlein.” For “Am Feierabend,” she says the lad must show immense zest for his work, and that is just what she suggests in her impetuous start, even more so at the repeat, and ends the song “with great feeling and dreamy yearning.” In “Die Neugierige” she sings the section starting “O Bächlein” with the “beautiful floating legato” the music predicates. Here, as throughout, Lehmann’s judicious use of portamento and her wonderful feeling for the text make her performance one to treasure.

[LL’s “Ungeduld” was recorded in 1935.] Lehmann suggests “Your trembling, throbbing heart beats in a stormy tempo through this song. Sing with a fiery impetuosity…In each verse from out of the surging restlessness there blooms, in a broad line and with great feeling, the confession of your devotion.”  For “Morgengruss” she says “shyly and humbly you approach the window of your beloved…she vanishes…but the look which she three you could not have been unfriendly for you begin the song in a mood of happy animation…The second verse should be sung with a tender intimacy.” In “Des Müllers Blumen” “you bring flowers to her bedroom window and plant them where they may bloom in the light of her eyes….Avoid throughout giving too equal emphasis to every syllable and in this way making this beautiful song monotonous.” “Tränenregen” “…must be sung with deep emotion….With the beginning of the prelude feel the dreaming enchantment of the moonlit night…You are so young and shy. You do not dare to look into the face of your beloved as she sits beside you, no, you look down into the brook in which her beauty is mirrored…You believe the brook is blissfully happy because it holds the image of your beloved within its water…The girl’s nature is a completely prosaic one, the overpowering emotion of the youth at her side is to her something foreign and beyond her understanding…Suddenly she gets up and the only thing which she can think of saying in this hour of enchantment is the very prosaic remark: ‘It’s going to rain, good-bye, I’m going home.’”]

For “Mein!” Lehmann wants the singer to feel intoxicated: “Imagine that your whole body sways, as it would for example if sitting in a soaring swing: you become one with its motion.” Typical of her vivid imagery, that is how she interprets it herself. Lehmann takes “Pause” faster than most singers, saying: “Don’t drag this song: the tempo is moderato and it should not be made sentimental!” She asks for the start of the second verse to be delivered with great tenderness and does it that way. Wonderful colorings inform her interpretation. The fatal question near the beginning “Soll es das Vorspeil…?” should be done “very softly, trembling with great restrain,” as she does it.

[“Mit dem grünen Lautenband” “is one of the few songs in this cycle (and in any case the last one) which has a carefree quality. You have thrust aside the lurking premonition; you are living completely in the happy present….That she will will rob your lute of its {green ribbon} adornment…is like a command for you…This green which later becomes the hated color (the coat of the hunter, with whom the unfaithful one betrays you, is green) now seems the most beautiful color in the world to you…”]

She brings the wildness she mentions to the fierce jealousy of “Der Jäger,” and the marked accentuation suggestive of deep excitement to the next song, and Lehmann herself allows her marvelous spontaneity in word-painting to bring these two songs before us in all their desperation. [Lehmann writes about “Eifersucht und Stolz”: “but from the hunter who seems scarcely worth your contempt you turn back to your beloved: you can no longer deny to yourself that she is the guilty one, that it is she who has betrayed you and has turned her fickle hart to the hunter…You now take refuge again with the brook, the one friend to whom you may confess your feelings.] The legato and dark coloring in “Die liebe Farbe” is just right; so it the “Whispered piano, trembling through tears” of the third verse. How often has one heard this sorrowful song so filled with meaning? That is followed by the “wild storming…of the whole body” in “Die böse Farbe.” The sheer abandoned courage of Lehmann’s singing here is unique in my experience. 

Melancholy and veiled tone inform the deeply moving first half of “Trock’ne Blumen,” ending in the “aching sigh” of “Die Blümlein alle, die sie mir gab.” In “Der Müller und der Bach” Lehmann declares that the protagonist’s soul is no longer “really on earth” so the music should be sung “without expression in a somber monotony,” while the brook’s response should be sung “as if in play, with a light quality of voice,” and the final verse should have deep emotion. Put all the glow all the warmth of your heart into the address to the stream.” Lehmann says she only ever sang three verses of the concluding lullaby. “Everything must be subdued, restrained, dream-like…” And so it is in her performance. This highly individual reading of the cycle will not suit the purist taste…but in its heartfelt, seemingly spontaneous utterance it is its own justification.

Though Lehmann’s drawings for the cycle are in black and white, she drew them in color and we have faded photos from a gallery show of them.

For the two songs missing master class segments that follow, I’ve included a sentence each from Lehmann’s Eighteen Song Cycles.

Lehmann’s introduction to the cycle

Das Wandern [Lehmann painted these in color, but the originals could not be located.]

LL sings “Das Wandern”
LL teaches “Das Wandern”

Lehmann sings “Wohin?”
Lehmann teaches “Wohin?”
Lehmann sings “Halt!”
Lehmann teaches “Halt!”
Lehmann sings “Danksagung an den Bach”
Lehmann teaches “Danksagung an den Bach”
Lehmann sings Am Feierabend
Lehmann teaches Am Feierabend
Lehmann sings Der Neugierige
Lehmann teaches Der Neugierige
Lehmann teaches Der Neugierige 2
Lehmann sings Ungeduld
Lehmann teaches Ungeduld
Lehmann sings Morgengruß
Lehmann teaches Morgengruß
Lehmann sings Des Müllers Blumen
Lehmann teaches Des Müllers Blumen
Lehmann sings Tränenregen (there’s no master class)
Lehmann sings Mein!
Lehmann teaches Mein!
Lehmann sings Pause
Lehmann teaches Pause
Lehmann sings Mit dem grünen Lautenbande
Lehmann teaches Mit dem grünen Lautenbande
Lehmann sings Der Jäger
Lehmann teaches Der Jäger
Lehmann sings Eifersucht und Stolz
Lehmann teaches Eifersucht und Stolz
Lehmann sings Die liebe Farbe
Lehmann teaches Die liebe Farbe
Lehmann sings Die böse Farbe (no master class)
Lehmann sings Trockne Blumen
Lehmann teaches Trockne Blumen
Lehmann sings Der Müller und der Bach
Lehmann teaches Der Müller und der Bach
Lehmann sings Des Baches Wiegenlied
Lehmann teaches Des Baches Wiegenlied