From the time that Wilhem Müller compiled his poem cycle “Die schöne Müllerin” (“The fair Miller Maid”) there was a musical quality to the verses that was in part due to the fact that the cycle began as a parlor game of a group of artist friends who would elaborate upon the story of a finicky milkmaid and her would-be suitors in improvised verse and song. A composer member of the group even persuaded Müller to fashion a complete cycle of the poems, combining what had been separate roles into a single storyteller, that of the miller. Those songs, composed by Ludwig Berger, are long forgotten but a second attempt to set the same poem cycle to music by Franz Shubert forever transformed the art of the lieder, or the German art song. Schubert took individual songs and wove them into a grand tapestry that was virtually operatic in scope and dramatic impact yet introspective and soul-searching. Ravinia will be the destination of choice this week for Schubert lovers, as baritone Matthias Goerne, protégé of legendary lieder singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and of former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach, will join with Eschenbach as pianist in a rare three-recital presentation of Schubert’s three magnificent song cycles. Although the duo is presenting this extraordinary triptych in London and Austria, Ravinia is the only venue hosting these extraordinary recitals in the United States. (Dennis Polkow)
July 27, Ravinia Festival’s Martin Theatre, Lake-Cook & Green Bay Roads, Highland Park, (847)266-5000. 8pm. $10-$40.