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Winterreise with Photos: A Story before Winterreise

Crossing of the Rhine at Kaub

The crossing of the Rhine at Kaub, Germany in the winter of 1813/1814 took place as the Prussian Army, under the direction of General Blüher, pursued Napoleon and his troops.

Crossing of the Rhine in 1814

My name is Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Müller.  I was born as the sixth child of a tailor, Christian Heinrich Leopold Müller and his wife Marie Leopoldine in Dessau, Germany.

By the time I was three, I became the only child of my parents.   I vagely remember the funeral of the last of my five siblings to die because I was only three.   I did not have any more playmates after that at home.  Another sad incident in my life was the death of my mother.  It happened when I was 14.   My father remarried one year later to the daughter of a meat shop owner because my father wanted to give me an education.

I grew up in the Jewish neighborhood although my family was Christian.  It was because my father was poor.  I heard different accents from the German I learned at home and in school in my neighborhood.   The street where my father’s house used to stand is the Steinstraße within short walking distance of the Mulde, a river flowing into the Elbe, and in the neighborhood nearby there was a Jewish temple.

As a result of my father’s remarriage, my father was able to send me to the University in Berlin in the beginning of July, 1812.  I was 18 year old at that time.   However, shortly after my arrival at the University, the Prussian King, Frederick William, declared war against Napoleon.   This was a significant shift in that the Kindgdom of  Prussia decided to break away from Napoleon’s France.

First, we need to understand the historical background of the war development before I tell my own experience during this war. I am not going to write a long history of how Napoleon became an emperor in France.  I need to tell you briefly what Napoleon did to my country of Prussia.

We had learned in school that Napoleon defeated the Russian and the Austrian troops under their emperors at Austerlitz (located southeast of Brno, Czech Republic) in 1805.   This meant the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and he added Germany and Italy to his empire centering in Paris.  We should note that Prussia was not the part of Germany he added.  In 1806, however, there was a battle between France under Napoleon and the Hohenzollern Prussia.  In this battle King Frederick William III had to flee with his family.   However, this defeat has led to a reform in the military organization of the Prussian Army.

But we know that the Franch Army under Napoleon went to Russia and had to flee facing the severe winter in Russia.  This Russian disaster by the French enboldened the Prussians to wage a war against France (Befreiungskrieg).  In English it is called the War of Liberation.

I was one of the volunteer soldiers because we all wanted to get rid of Napoleon.

My first station was Großgörschen (May 2, 1813).  This was a battleground southeast of Leipzig.  This battle was fierce and many soldiers lost their lives on both sides. This was where I lost my Dessau schoolmate, Ludwig Bornemann.  I was really shocked by this loss.  I sort of knew that the battles meant killing and being killed, but when it happens to your close friend, it is still shocking.    Then came Bautzen (May 20/21, 1813), Hainau in Schlesia (May 26), and Kulm in northern Bohemia (August 29/30 1813).  All of the above places were battlegrounds, and then I was assigned to a depot in Prague (Fall, 1813).  My last station was the commander’s office in Brussels (1814).  By the time I was assigned to Brussels, I had become a liutenant.

Reaching Brussels required  that the Prussian Army crossed the Rhine.  It was the first of January, 1814 at Kaub (current spelling Caub) which is near Lorelei.  It was a difficult crossing because the ice on the river was very slippery and the surrounding area was covered with snow.

Yes it was 1814, the year before Waterloo.  Not so many people realize that Waterloo is located just south of Brussels.

In my time, Brussels was a small place bordered with the huge Sonian Forest.  Waterloo is located southwest of the Sonian Forest.  The Prussian Army camped there in the Forest in 1814.  Because I studied Philology and learned modern English at the University, I was assigned the task of going into the Wallonian territories where they speak French because I was good with the languages.  Yes, I was a spy.

I walked into one of the villages directly south of the Sonian Forest.

© 2017 Tomoko Yamamoto


Michael V. Leggiere, “Napoleon and the Struggle for Germany: The Franco-Prussian War of 1813 Vol. 1”  2015, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Michael V. Leggiere, “The Fall of Napoleon”   Volume 1,  The Allied Invasion of France , 1813-1814″  2007, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom

(To be continued)

Sandvorstadt, the Jewish neighborhood in 1834 in Dessau, Germany
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Winterreise with Photos: Where Wilhelm Müller Grew Up

The poet Wilhelm Müller was born in 1794 in Dessau, Germany. His birthplace used to be on Steinstraße. This photo shows the real vicinity of Steinstraße and Schloßplatz at which the Schloß, castle, is located.

Mulde upstream from downtown Dessau

The Mulde flows by the downtown Dessau and joins the Elbe north of the downtown Dessau.

Sandvorstadt, the Jewish neighborhood in 1834 in Dessau, Germany

Sandvorstadt is the area of  Jewish neighborhood in Dessau, Germany

Click the image above to get a larger view.

Wilhelm Müller was born in 1794 as a son of a poor guild tailor in the town of Dessau, Germany.  Dessau became the fixed residence of  the family of Prince of Anhalt-Dessau in 1471.  Because it was a small town, the physical distance between the poor guild tailor’s house (probably near 19 on the Steinstrasse) and one of the ruler’s castles (indicated by Schloss) was small as seen on the map below.  The area shown on the map was called “Sandvorstadt” where the Jewish residents lived although Müller’s family was not Jewish, but Protestant.  The map of Sandvorstadt in 1834  shows the history of the Jewish community in Dessau and in particular  we note that Moses Mendelssohn (6) and Kurt Weil (7) were born there where the numbers indicate the birthplaces of these two.

The map also indicates the shoreline of the River Mulde in 1834 by the thin blue line whereas the current river is indcated by the thick gray line.  It is noteworthy that the river width in 1834 was twice as wide as the present width.  Therefore the map illustrates the physical environment of where Wilhelm Müller grew up.  It is not surprising that the river plays an important landscape element in the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, such as “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise.”

I myself grew up in the vicinity of a river in Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan.  The river is the River Kanda.  Currently the river in the area of my parents’ house is narrow in width, but it was a result of flood control.  In my childhood, the river basin was wider with a large area of reed and sand bounded by the bank on both sides where people lived.   I can imagine such a landscape as a result of my childhood experiences of going to the river with neighborhood children to hunt for crayfish.  We don’t know what Müller did as a child by the river, but we can imagine he must have had, in his mind,  a river landscape with the sanded bank. (en)

Wilhelm Müller ist 1794 in Dessau als eines armes Schneidermeisters Sohn geboren.  Dessau wurde 1471 die feste Residenz des Führsten der Anhalt-Dessau.  Da die Stadt klein war, war sein Geburtshaus (wahrscheinlich in der Nähe von 19  in der Steinstraße) nicht weit entfernt von des Schlosses.  Die Gegend, von der Plan oben gezeigt,  heißt “Sandvorstadt,” wo jüdische Bewohner wohnten, obwohl Müllers Familie nicht jüdisch sondern evangelisch war.  Der Stadtplan “Sandvorstadt 1834,”  zeigt  die Geburtsorte der bedeutende Juden, wie Moses Mendelssohn (6) und Kurt Weill (7) (Die Nummern zeigen die Geburtsorten.)

Der Plan,  Historische Orte jüdischen Lebens in Dessau, “Sandvorstadt,”  zeigt das Ufer des Flusses Mulde 1834 im Blau und den heutigen Stadtplan im Grau.  Es notiert daß in der Nähe vom Schloss und von der Nummer 19, war der Fluß  damals zweimal breit.   Der Plan zeigt die Umwelt des Wilhelm Müllers.  Es ist nicht überraschend daß der Fluß  wichtig im Landschaften im  beiden Gedichtzyklen des Müllers,  “Die schöne Müllerin” und “Winterreise” ist.

Ich bin selbst geboren in der Nähe von eines Flusses in Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan.  Der Fluss ist der Flzuss Kanda.  Jetzt ist der Fluss in der Nachbarschaft meines Elterns Hauses  sehr eng, aber als Ergebnis der Regulierung.   In meiner Kindheid war das Stromgebiet breit mit grosse Becken mit Ried und Sand und die beiden Ufer waren hoher als die Flußbecken.  Ich kann leicht vorstellen solche Landschaft da ich mich errinnere an meinem Erlebnis mit Nachbarschaft Kinder, um den Flußkrebs zu fangen.  Wir wissen nicht was Müller als Kind beim Fluße getan hat, aber wir glauben, er hatte eine klare Vorstellung einer Fluß Landschaft mit dem Sand. (de)

ウィルヘルム・ミュラーは1794年に貧しい仕立て屋の息子としてドイツのデッサウで生まれました。 デッサウは1471年からAnhalt-Dessau族の君主に統治されていました。 町は小さかったので貧しい仕立て屋の家(多分Steinstrasseの19番に近く)と君主の城のひとつ(Schlossとして示してある)とは地図や道路標識に見るように近かったのです。 地図に示してあるところは「Sandvorstadt」(砂地の都市周辺部)と言われユダヤ人が住むところでしたが、ミュラーの家族ははユダヤ人でなく新教徒でした。 1834年のSandvorstadt の地図はユダヤ人の歴史を示すためのものですがそこにモーゼス・メンデルスゾーン (6) や クルト・ワイル (7)などの著名なユダヤ人が住んでいたこともわかります。 (番号はこの二人が生まれた家を示しています。)

この地図は又1834年のムルデ川の川の流れ(青線)を示しており、現在の川幅はねずみ色の太い線なので、その当時は今の約二倍の川幅だったことが分かります。 そのような大きさの川のそばでミュラーが生まれ育ったことは、詩人のとしての彼の大作「美しい水車小屋の娘」と「冬の旅」においての川の景色に影響しただろうと思われます。

私自身も東京吉祥寺の川のそばで育ちました。川は神田川です。詳しく言えば神田川の上流ですが、私の両親の家のそばの現在の川幅は狭くなっており、それは治水工事のせいで、私の子供の時には川幅はもっと広く葦が川幅いっぱいに生えていて、川岸は丘になっていて丘の上に住居がありました。川のそばの景色は今でも覚えているのでそれは近所の子供と一緒に川にザリガニを採りに行ったからです。 ミュラーが子供の時に川で何をしたかは分かりませんが、砂地の川の景色はいつも頭に浮かんだろうと思われます。(jp)

A duck glides along the stream of the Kandagawa in the Kichijoji neighborhood near the Inogashira Park.

A duck glides along the stream of the Kandagawa in the Kichijoji neighborhood near the Inogashira Park near where the blog author, Tomoko Yamamoto, was born.

Music, Photograph, Text

Winterreise with Photos: How I Got Started

A View across the River Mulde in Dessau, Germany

Dessau, Germany has been built along the River Mulde. But the city of Dessau was pretty much destroyed during the air raid upon the city. What are shown in this photo are restored buildings of the Johannbau, the Marienkirche (the red roof), and the Rathaus (only its tower shows by the tower of the church).

When I first started learning the songs of “Winterreise” in early November, 2014, I was thinking of using mostly the photos I have taken in the past and adding only new photos in the wintertime because I wanted to have a concert in the spring, 2015.  “Winterreise” is a song cycle composed by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) with 24 poems written by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), who was born and died in Dessau, Germany.  I became interested in seeing Dessau when I learned from Susan Youens’s book, “Retracing a Winter’s Journey, Schubert’s Winterreise”  that Müller lived within walking distance of the River Mulde.  Later I learned  that Dessau was bombed during  World War II to ashes, and the only buildings which were rebuilt in their original form were the Town Hall and major churches.  Müller’s house was lost forever during the war.

Als ich  im November, 2014 begann, die Lieder der Winterreise einzustudieren, wollte ich in der schon für Frühjahr 2015 geplanten Aufführung  zum größten Teil vor Jahren gemachte Fotos verwenden, dazu noch einige neue, im Winter aufgenommene Bilder.  “Winterreise”  wurde von Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827)  geschrieben und von Franz Schubert (1797-1828) komponiert.  Der Dichter ist in Dessau, Deutschland geboren und und ist dort gestorben.  Da ich im Buch “Tracing a Winter´s Journey: Schubert´s Winterreise” von Susan Youens gelesen hatte, dass Müllers Geburtshaus einen kurzen Fußweg von dem Fluss Mulde entfernt lag, wollte ich Dessau sehen. Ich las dann jedoch, dass diese Stadt 1945 durch Luftangriffe fast völlig zerstört wurde. Müllers Geburtshaus ist nicht mehr.

フランツ・シューベルト作曲・ウィルヘルム・ミュラー作詞の「冬の旅」を習い始めたのは2014年の11月でした。 ウィルヘルム・ミュラーはドイツデッサウで生まれそこで亡くなった詩人です。 その時はコンサートを2015年の春にする予定だったので、たいていは今まで撮った写真を使って冬の写真が出来たら新しく撮るつもりでした。ただ、Susan Youens の 「Tracing a Winter’s Journey Schubert’s Winterreise」の本でミュラーの生家がムルデ川の近くにあると読んだのでデッサウを見たいと思っていました。 その後分かったことはデッサウの町は1945年の空襲で焼けてしまったことでした。 ミュラーの生家は残っていないのです。