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Der Neugierige by Franz Schubert

Der Neugierige ("The Questioner") is the sixth song in Schubert's cycle Die Schöne Müllerin. It is in complete contrast to the previous Lied, meditative and gentle in tone with its almost chorale-like Alberti bass and relatively slow speed. It is in B major, five verses long, the first two of which set the scene of a young man who is asking something which becomes more and more obvious as Müller's poem moves on through the stanzas.

Verse Three is when things first begin to move. At "Wie bist du heut so stumm?" (Why are you so silent today?) the mood of the music changes briefly to the minor and swings back almost immediately to the major. However, for the first time in the Lied, Schubert repeats the last two lines of the stanza once more before completing the verse.

Verse 4 again changes in mood. As Müller asks the age old question Yes or No, Schubert swings into a more complex recitative accompanied by piano chords rather than the rippling arpeggios seen earlier. These only return on the repetition of the words Oh Bächlein meiner Liebe in the first line of Verse 5; However, again the music swings uncertainly from major to minor and back again and we at last see the question that is being asked in the last line of the poem - "Sag, Bächlein, liebt sie mich?" (Tell me, little brook, does she love me?).

This Lied requires the singer to produce a complex interpretation within one of Schubert's most exquisite songs. The pianist must also take care, especially in the fourth verse of the recitative, not to thump out the chords but to play them within the context of the music. Both artists will need to interpret speed, quality of tone and careful breath control in the long phrases (the latter of course in the case of the singer), as well as the changes of mood within the story of the poem, for this is not an easy song to perform. It remains one of my most favourite Schubert songs in the repertoire and is well worth getting to know.

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