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Am Feierabend by Franz Schubert

Guest Author - Gillian Buchanan

Am Feierabend is the fifth song in Franz Schubert's song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin and Schubert chooses this moment to change the modality. Here he changes to key of A Minor, and as the first minor key song in the collection it represents a dramatic change in the style and mood of the moment.

Continuing the actual story line, the miller has managed to get himself a job at the mill he has found on his journey, and throughout this song he dreams that "if only" by his actions and skills the maid of the mill might notice him, but alas he has no more than any apprentice.

However, Schubert treats the whole song in a most interesting fashion. Müller wrote it in two verses, but Schubert chose to write it almost in a sonata form, treating the first verse as the exposition, the second verse as the development and then repeating the first verse as if in a recapitulation. The final lines of the poem:-

Dass die schöne Müllerin
Merkte meinen treuen Sinn!

are treated almost as a codetta, repeated on their own to finish the song.

The piano writing is important to consider as it also changes in style at this point. Previously we have had rippling, gentle writing but here the music is choppy, with fast scales and rhythmic chords struck suggesting the young man working frantically to show his skills in the hope he might be noticed by the girl. Alas, all that happens is that her father tells the young men how hard they have worked, including him in the general praise, and the girl wishes them all a good night, leaving him with his dreams.

On its own, Am Feierabend is not perhaps the most important song within the story of Die Schöne Müllerin as it contributes very little towards the development of the plot beyond establishing our miller in his new household, but it is one of Schubert's great songs and regularly appears on its own in recitals and workshops. I have heard it sung in different ways – some singers treat it simply as part of a developing, gentle passion while others will shout it out at the top of their lungs. Both ways work and it simply depends on the manner of the interpretation. I would suggest listening to Matthias Goerne, who is one of the great Lieder singers of today, and I also still love Fritz Wunderlich's interpretation from the 1960s for a totally different style and tone.

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