Der Neugierige , a setting by Wilhelm Müller, was composed by Franz Schubert in 1823. It is the sixth 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 Neugierige is the sixth 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).
In der Neugierige, the young man, incapable of asking the miller’s daughter if she loves him back tries to have Nature answer his question. The piano accompaniment with its short crotchets, seems like so many questions without answers. The vocal line, on the other hand, in the two first verses, is left quite exposed, revealing the fragility of the miller and his solitude. From the third stanza onwards, the vocal part pours into a lyrical, long-breathed melody supported by beautiful, rounded arpeggios at the piano. It seems as if the music, as a whole, could express all the delicate yearnings for love of our protagonist.