Krzysztof Biernacki, baritone
Denise Wright, piano
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, Op. 25 (D.975)
Baritone Krzysztof Biernacki has established a strong reputation as a powerful performer, versatile stage director, and talented teacher. Born and raised in Poland, his professional credits include opera, oratorio, concert, and recital performances in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Dr. Biernacki has sung principal roles with Vancouver Opera, Manitoba Opera, Calgary Opera, Orchestra London Canada, Theater of Usti nad Labem (Czech Republic), as well as with opera ensembles of University of British Columbia and University of Western Ontario. Dr. Biernacki frequently performs song recitals with repertoire ranging from Haydn to Szymanowski, Shostakovich, and Britten, and his commitment to contemporary music is highlighted by world premiere performances heard on CBC Radio and CBC Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, including a highly acclaimed production of Filumena, co-produced by the Calgary Opera and Banff Centre for Performing Arts. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with th UNF Wind Ensemble performing works of Tchaikovsky and Tosti, and was reengaged for a recital of opera arias and duets at Carnegie Zankel Hall. Summer engagements have included solo recitals in Italy and Poland, concerts with North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and stage directing engagements at the European Music Academy in the Czech Republic. Krzysztof Biernacki holds degrees from the University of Manitoba (B. Mus.), University of Western Ontario (M. Mus.), and University of British Columbia (D.M.A). He is the head of Applied Voice and Director of UNF Opera Ensemble at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville native Denise Wright received her Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama), and her Master of Music in Piano Performance from Indiana University (Blommington). As a young artist, Ms. Wright was active in a myriad of events sponsored by the Jacksonville Music Teachers Association. While at Samford, she served as a pianist for the Baptist Festival Singers European Tour. She was a Professor of Piano at Bethel College (Mishawaka, Indiana), and was a collaborative pianist at both Indiana University and at St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana). Returning to Jacksonville in 1991, Ms. Wright assumed the position of pianist at First Baptist Church. Highly sought after as accompanist, she joined the staff of the University of North Florida where she works with several voice studios, as well as with the UNF Opera Ensemble. She also serves as accompanist at Douglas Anderson Shcool of the Arts, Jacksonville University, and for RC Arts Management. Ms. Wright balances her many artistic endeavors with raising her five children: Sarah, Victoria, Joshua, Anna, and Daniel.
In addition to numerous symphonies, chamber works, masses, and solo piano music, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed over 600 songs in his short life, and he has remained unsurpassed in the ability to marry poetry with music. Even Beethoven, who apparently never met the younger composer, touted Schubert's genius when he was given some of Schubert's songs (including Die schöne Müllerin) shortly before his death. Although Schubert was virtually unknown to the general public, his music was regularly performed in private concerts for Vienna’s musical elite, and by 1825 he was in negotiations with four different publishers. But the bulk of Schubert's masterworks remained unpublished at the time of his death, so he generally had had to depend on his devoted circle of friends to help maintain his finances. After Schubert died, probably from medicinal mercury poisoning, his wish to be buried next to Beethoven, who had died just the previous year, was honored.
Although Beethoven's lovely An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved, 1816) is generally cited as being the first "song cycle," Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Lovely Daughter, 1823-24) is the first song cycle of its own type. Beethoven's cycle is one continuous movement with several contrasting sections, along the lines of a sung fantasia, in which music from the beginning returns at the end so as to form a kind of musical circle. In contrast, Schubert composed a set of related songs intended to be performed as a group in a specified order, but each of the 20 songs is nonetheless self-contained, and so may also stand alone as a separate piece. Thus, Schubert's concept of the song cycle is more in keeping with a Baroque-era solo cantata, with piano accompaniment. And it is Schubert's model more than Beethoven's which has provided inspiration for song cycles by later composers, from Schumann and Mahler to Britten and Barber, and beyond
In truth, Schubert's groundbreaking work, first published in 1824, was really the concept of German poet Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827). In 1820, when Müller published his cycle of 25 poems about a young miller’s apprentice who finds but then loses love, he intended them as song lyrics, and later wrote a friend that he hoped "... a kindred spirit may some day be found, whose ear will catch the melodies from my words, and who will give me back my own" (Schubert Songs, by Maurice J.E. Brown). Although Schubert chose a number of Müller's poems as texts for other songs as well, including those of another great cycle, Winterreise (Winter Journey, 1828), there is no evidence that Müller ever knew that his "kindred spirit" indeed had been found, and that Schubert used his words to create unsurpassed musical masterpieces.
Die schöne Müllerin
- PROGRAM NOTES (pdf)
- Complete Score (from imslp.org)
- Complete Recording (at imslp.org)
- German texts with English translations