Der Jäger, a setting by Wilhelm Müller, was composed by Franz Schubert in 1823. It is the fourteenth lied of his song cycle, die Schöne Müllerin.
1823, the year where Schubert composed Die Schöne Müllerin, appears to be, posteriorly, a lime stone in the composer’s life. Aged 26, after many rapid evolutions, his musical style seems to reach maturity: in 1823, he will also compose the remarkable Wanderer Fantasie for piano. More tragically, it also appears to be the year where he contracted syphilis and from then on, his health will decline rapidly. In die Schöne Müllerin, Schubert chooses to set poems, all by Wilhelm Müller, a poet he was extremely found of (his song cycle, Winterreise, is another example of him setting Müller’s poems). All selected from the eponym poem collection, die Schöne Müllerin, Schubert omitted setting five of the twenty-five poems of the book. The cycle tells the story of a young traveler who falls in love with a miller’s daughter. She loves him back, at first, but soon prefers a hunter and rejects him. In Die schöne Müllerin, all the typical romantic themes seem to be intertwined ever so closely: hope, love, rejection, nature, travel and death fuse into one of the most beautiful German song cycles ever written.
Der Jäger is the fourteenth song of die Schöne Müllerin. It follows a lied introducing a wandering miller (Das Wandern, N.1) who decides to follow a brook (Wohin?, N.2) and comes to a stop as he sees a welcoming Mill (Halt, N.3). He reflects on what is happening to him (Danksagung an den Bach, N.4), before accepting to work in this mill for the love of the miller’s daughter (Am Feierabend, N.5). Incapable of facing the one he loves, he wonders if she loves him back (der Neugeriege, N.6), expresses passion and impatience (Ungeduld, N.7), doubt and distress (Morgengruss, N.8), before planting flowers under her window hoping those will reveal his love for her (des Müllers Blumen, N.9). He, finally spends a moment with her (Tränenregen, N,10) and exults at the thought she is now his (Mein!, N.11). He reflects on the fact he is now incapable of playing his luth (Pause, N.12) and offers a ribbon to the millers’ daughter as a token of his love (Mit dem grünen Lautenbande, N.13).
Der Jäger seems to another turning point of the song cycle: a hunter covets the miller’s daughter’s love. The music seems to portray the brutality of the hunter: at the vocal line, the crotchets are stamped violently in every beat, supported by staccato notes at the piano. The lied starts out in a furious canon emphasizing, perhaps, the brutal danger and cruelty of the whole situation.