Die schöne Müllerin (Op. 25, D. 795), is a song cycle by Franz Schubert based on poems by Wilhelm Müller. It is the earliest extended song cycle to be widely performed. The work is considered one of Schubert's most important cycles, and one of the pinnacles of Lied, and it is widely performed and recorded.
Die schöne Müllerin is performed by a pianist and a solo singer. The vocal part falls in the range of a tenor or soprano voice, but is often sung by other voices, transposed to a lower range. Since the story of the cycle is about a young man, the work is most often sung by men. The piano part bears much of theEXPRESSIVE burden of the work, and is only seldom a mere "accompaniment" to the singer.
A typical performance lasts around sixty to seventy minutes.
Müller's poems were published in 1820, and Schubert set most of them to music between May and September 1823, while he was also writing his operaFierrabras. He was 26 years old at the time. Schubert omitted several of the poems, such as a prologue and an epilogue delivered by the poet. The work was published in 1824 under the title Die schöne Müllerin, ein Zyklus von Liedern, gedichtet von Wilhelm Müller, which means, "The Lovely Maid of the Mill, a song cycle to poems by Wilhelm Müller".
There are twenty songs in the cycle, around half in simple strophic form, and they move from cheerfulOPTIMISM to despair and tragedy. At the beginning of the cycle, a young journeyman miller wanders happily through the countryside. He comes upon a brook, which he follows to a mill. He falls in love with the miller's beautiful daughter (the "Müllerin" of the title). She is out of his reach as he is only a journeyman. He tries to impress her, but her response seems tentative. The young man is soon supplanted in her affections by a hunter clad in green, the color of a ribbon he gave the girl. In his anguish, he experiences an obsession with the color green, then an extravagant death fantasy in which flowers sprout from his grave toEXPRESS his undying love. (See Beethoven's Adelaide for a similar fantasy.) In the end, the young man despairs and presumably drowns himself in the brook, although it is not absolutely clear if it is indeed a suicide or a more abstract fusion between the man and the brook. The last number is a lullaby sung by the brook. The question remains: is the brook really the miller's friend or is it a fiend, like Mephistopheles in the Faust legend, who leads the miller to his downfall and destruction?
The Diabelli first edition of 1830 is available in a facsimile score, with notes by Walther Dürr, published (1996) by Bärenreiter . The version in most common use is the Peters Edition, edited by Max Friedlaender, and in this and several other editions (e.g. Schirmer) the cycle is presented as the first 20 songs of Volume 1. There are versions in the original (high) keys, and transposed alternatives for lower voices. The Peters edition was recently revised by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elmar Budde, and is available as Volume 1 of the Peters Urtext Edition , available in high, medium and low key versions. The most recent scholarly edition is in the New Schubert Edition, again edited by Walther Dürr and published by Bärenreiter. This also offers transposed versions for lower voices. Online, there is a Schubertline (digital) edition  which presents the songs in the original keys, but allows transposition to any other keys. The cycle has also been arranged for voice and guitar in an edition by Schott.
Six of the songs were transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt and published as Müllerlieder.