by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

December 9th, 2009

The Wintereisse are probably the most well known of any collection of songs about winter. Written by the German poet Wilhelm Muller, they are a 26 song cycle, most famously set for male voice and piano by Franz Schubert in 1827. They are no party; the songs deal with the loneliness of solitiude, the bleakness and cold of the season,  rejected love, and the contemplation of death, something that should appeal to Morrissey fans.  Over 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. In doing so, Muller also captures the melancholy feel of winter, while Scubert’s sparse piano work demonstrate the icy touch of frigid despair. 

Originally scored for tenor, they are now often transposed to baritone, bringing an additional gravitas and level of gloom to the proceedings. Marvellous in their utter depression and despair, I thoroughly recommend a good listen during a howling, snowing night, indoors next to a roaring fire, a dog at your feet and a bottle of 18 year old Glenfiddich malt to hand. Just make sure someone else has the key to the shotgun cabinet.

A link to the full lyrics can be found here