Die Schöne Müllerin is a song cycle of 20 songs composed by Franz Schubert. They move from heady optimism to tragedy. A young miller wanders happily through the countryside, soon following a brook which leads to the mill AND the beautiful miller’s daughter. Her response to his approaches is luke- warm and worse, is rapidly supplanted by a green clad hunter. The miller becomes obsessed with the colour green.
In the final song cycle, Des Baches Wiegenlied, our lovelorn suicidal hero gives himself up to the tender clutches of the brook as it meanders through the bleak countryside. The moonlight is reflected back from the flowing water.
It is the brook who sings the lullaby as it embraces the heartbroken miller.
Good night, good night until everything wakes sleep away your joy, sleep away your pain the full moon rises, the mist departs, and the sky above, how vast it is.
Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795: XX. Des Baches Wiegenlied · Christian Gerhaher · Franz Schubert · Gerold Huber Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin ℗ 2003 Bayerischer Rundfunk Producer: Wilhelm Meister Lyricist: Wilhelm Müller
David Armitage has also produced an illustrated book of ‘Winterreise’, Schubert’s other great song cycle. Follow the blog to see more posts on Winterreise, Music Box, paintings, memoirs and more!
This is either ‘Azrael’ or ‘Queen of the night’, depending on which music I am listening to at the time. My work relies on ambiguity, I find either title suits this very powerful figure. They are not un-alike.
After all, this is a painting, not a picture.
‘The magic flute’ is rather like a fairy tale. A noble prince is commanded by the Queen to rescue her daughter, who has been kidnapped. Things get off to a great start with the appearance of a huge serpent which threatens our prince, but lo! 3 women (employed by the Queen) turn up and rescue him. He is then given a magic flute and sets off to rescue the daughter who is in the clutches of the High Priest of Isis and Osiris. The plot thickens, other characters appear, as does splendid music.
Moving quickly on, eventually the Prince and daughter get married in the temple after a series of very testing adventures. Furious at this turn of events, the Queen plots to destroy the occupants of the temple but the High Priest calls the shots and the Queen is vanquished.
Although she is hardly on the stage at all, this powerful and pivotal coloratura soprano is up to no good and has a huge influence on proceedings. An equivocal figure, of uneven temperament, she scales vocal heights which would terrify the faint- hearted.
The original play ‘Salome’ was written, in French, by Oscar Wilde. Richard Strauss saw the play and immediately set to work on producing a German operatic version. It was duly performed in 1905.
What with a heady mix of the biblical, the erotic, and the murderous all wrapped up in splendid music it was controversial to say the least, and banned in London until 1907.
Towards the end of the opera, after quite a bit of to-ing and fro-Ing, Salome, who must have been quite a girl, performs the then startling ‘dance of the seven veils’ before the besotted King Herod, finishing up lying naked at his feet.
Herod then promises to grant her most desired wish….. which, of course turns out to be the head of John the Baptist. Said head is duly delivered and is fervently kissed by Salome. Goodness. The climatic music is extraordinary, a much debated chord seems to echo the degradation of Salome. This lowly state does not last long, the lovely girl being crushed under the shields of the soldiers. Not too many jokes, but wonderful stuff.
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This painting was prompted by the closing pages of Wagner’s great Ring cycle.
Brunnhilde orders a huge funeral pyre to be built by the river Rhine.
Eventually she lights the fire, mounts her horse and rides into the fire to be consumed by the flames. The opera concludes with the glorious music of the Rhine
overflowing its banks and extinguishing the blaze.
The first Wagner I heard was at primary school age. It was the introduction to Das Rheingold. I had never heard of Wagner, just loved the stuff.
The horns and lower strings transport the listener to a magical world, rather like watching the time lapse growth and metamorphosis of some fabulous plant. Ravishing.
The vexed question of ‘titles for paintings?’ is a very old friend. The works I produce are, by their very nature, ambiguous and non-specific. They can sit happily with double identities or no identity at all. After all, they are paintings, not pictures. Self-contained worlds in other words. To complicate matters, no matter what they are called, the subliminal undercurrent that pervades them all, is music.
‘Music Box’ is a collection of works where these links are quite obvious and I have provided a brief note of a more direct connection with particular bits of music. The proud owner of one of these huge works said: ‘forget all that tosh, I love the marks and the colour, sod the rest’. Never mind.
This is tricky territory; the Art Bollocks Cultural Police are always on the lookout for this sort of thing, and quite right too.
This ballet/ burlesque was composed by Stravinsky in 1910/11. It tells the story of three puppets who are brought to life. They are Petrushka, the Ballerina and the Moor.
Petrushka loves the Ballerina but she rejects him in favour of the Moor.
Petrushka challenges the Moor but dies in the attempt to vanquish him.
As night falls Petrushka’s ghost rises above the theatre before collapsing in a second death.
The ballet is a rich tapestry of wonderful music, dance and design. It’s popularity remains undimmed, as does the attraction of this tragic figure.