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Franz Schubert

Monday, July 24, 2017


My Classical Notes

Yesterday

The Hagen Quartet Performs

My Classical NotesFor the past few days I have been listening to my favorite string quartet group, the Hagen Quartet, founded in Salzburg, Austria. I have admired these performers for many years. In fact, imconducted an interview with them and listened to them play the music of Mozart when they came to Carmel, California a few years back. If you will be in Austria soon, here is a concert that I surely would love to attend: Chamber Concert: Hagen Quartett and Sol Gabetta, Cello Venue: Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg: Großer Saal Address: Schwarzstraße 26, Salzburg, 5020, Austria Date: Monday 7 August 2017 at 19:30 PROGRAM: Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) Art of Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge), BWV1080 [Bach]: Contrapunctus I-IV Shostakovich, Dmitri (1906-1975) String Quartet No. 8 in C minor “Malinconia”, Op.110 Schubert, Franz (1797-1828) String Quintet in C major, D.956 PERFORMERS: Hagen Quartet, with Sol Gabetta Cello Here, for your enjoyment, is one of my great favorites: The Quartet K464 by Mozart, as performed by the Hagen Quartett:

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

Yesterday

Vladimir Putin: These are my classical favourites

The Russian president has been talking to students about his classical tastes. ‘I always listened with pleasure and to so-called popular classical music – Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, of course. Maybe, first of all, Mozart, for me. ‘Of our own – Rachmaninov. And Schubert/Liszt ‘Ständchen’ – wonderful, I really love this melody: Schubert in Liszt’s adaptation.’ On contemporary music: ‘Of course, it’s difficult for me to understand a composer such as Schnittke. Although he is very famous, and we are proud of him. But only a well-prepared listener understands all the variety and the depth of his works. I have not yet grown to this point, but I hope that I will continue to move in this direction.’ More on the event here.




My Classical Notes

July 9

Schubert Piano Sonatas

If you have been following my posts for a while, then you already know that I am a huge fan of the music by Franz Schubert. Now I want to tell you about a new recording featuring Schubert’s sonatas for piano. Schubert: Piano Music Vol. 4 Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 14 in A minor, D784 Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D959 Performed by Vladimir Feltsman (piano) Schubert wrote eleven complete sonatas between 1817 and 1828. He also composed movements for several sonatas which he left unfinished. The Sonata in A minor D784 is one of the most important singular works in Schubert’s output that stays apart from his previous and later sonatas. It is a sad and almost minimalistic work that achieves a profound and lasting impact. It is one of the darkest and most unsettling pieces he ever wrote and one of the most confessional. This relatively short sonata, by Schubert’s standards, is one of the most authentic, prophetic and enigmatic works ever written. The Sonata in A major D959 was written in 1828, the last year of Schubert’s life, very rapidly alongside the sonatas in C minor and B-flat major, just a few month before his death. The speed, quality and quantity of Schubert’s output in the last year of his life are a marvel. In his last year, Schubert wrote some of the most important work that sums up his ideas, inspiration and ambitions as a composer. These incredible works were written by the artist at the peak of his creative powers with clarity and precision. Schubert’s final message seems to be that of acceptance and reconciliation. Towards the end of his life, Schubert was learning to accept death as a promise, as a blessing… Here is the Rondo from the Sonata number 20 on this recording:



Classical iconoclast

July 4

Lieder on a battlefield - Schubert Körner Schlegel Wigmore Hall

Liederabend on the battlefield! Not Schubert at the piano, but Theodor Körner, poet and freedom fighter.  On the night of 26th August 1813, Körner played the piano and sang for his comrades into the early hours. The next day, astride his horse, and dressed in black Lützower Freikorps uniform, he was shot, and died, aged only 21.  The Lützower volunteers fought a heroic resistance against the forces of Napoleon. Many of them were intellectuals, but as soldiers they lived rough, often camped in dense forests, living amid nature, sometimes aided by peasants. All the elements of the Romantic spirit ! Romanticism and the very idea of German identity was thus forged through steel.  Literally Schwertlied, (the song of the sword) the patriotic poem Körner wrote for that final Liederabend depicted above. "Hurra, du Eisenbraut! Hurra!"   Körner's mystique was that, even in battle, he was an artist, and had a death wish, another Romantic meme.  One can imagine the impression Körner made on Schubert, a geeky kid from a poor background. Thus the background to this recital in the Wigmore Hall's Complete Schubert Songs series. Here Schubert's settings of Körner were presented with settings of Friedrich von Matthisson, Friedrich von Schlegel and his brother August.  The Körner songs chosen, however, were more light hearted than heroic.  Sängers Morgenlied I  D163 and II D165 follow the same text, the first setting somewhat tentative, the second more developed.  These were written within the same few months in 1815, when Schubert also wrote Liebesrausch I D164, and II D179, the first a fragment, the second with palpitating figures in the piano part, suggesting the fervent heart in the text.  Also from this period but more individual were Liebeständelei D 206 and Das gestörte Glück D309, two songs of coy flirtation.  When Markus Schäfer, the singer at this Wigmore Hall concert, recorded these songs with Ulrich Eisenlohr some years ago, his voice was light and agile. It's still charming, though he has to push the lines a little more. Schubert's settings of Friedrich von Mathisson are more varied.  Entzükung D413 (1816) and Stimme der Liebe D418 (1816) are somewhat impersonal declarations of love, one lit by bright sunlight, the other by sunset. The rhyming couplets in Liebenslied D508 (1816) don't inspire Schubert to great  heights. Interestingly, Mahler, drawing his text from folklore, wrote a rather livelier Scheiden und meiden.  Skolie D507 (1816), however, is a drinking song. For a moment we were back to the youthful vigour of Körner and Burschenschaft societies. Vollendung D579a and Die Erde D579b were discovered in the 1960's. D number apart they bear no resemblance to the well-known Der Knabe in der Weige D579. Friedrich Schlegel as a young manJust as Schubert was inspired by  the ideaism of Theodor Körner, he was inspired by the idealism of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829), another, though older, contemporary.  Schlegel's cycle of poems, Abendröte.  "Alles scheuint dem Dichter redend, denn er hat den Sinn gefunden, und das Allein einzig Chor manches Lied aus einem Munde".  The Gods of classical antiquity fade and Nature itself takes precedence.  The poems are vignettes : mountains, rivers, bushes, stars, a small boy and a butterfly, described in naturalistic terms.  Schubert wrote the songs in random order, from 1819 to 1823, the most prominent,  Die Abendröte.D690, last of all, though it forms the first part of the group on Schubert's manuscript. Its undulating piano lines suggesting the downward movement of the sun and the awakening of sensuality. "Berge, himmelan geschwungen" in every sense.   Whatever Schubert's intentions may have been, the group of 7 of the 11 settings when performed together in this order has a certain logic. In Die Berge D614 (1819), the vocal line rises upwards, "Sieht uns der Blick gehoben", the middle section of the last word suddenly rising to a peak.  The piano part is confident, almost swaggering and upbeat.  In the middle strophe the pace quickens, strong single chords for emphasis.  With Der Knabe D692 (1820), we're down to earth once more, the high tessitura suggesting youth and fragility.  Der Fluß D693 (1820), is one of Schubert's most famous songs, its sensuous curving line flowing like a river. The vocal part soars and dips : there are parallels between this song and Schubert's last great masterpiece Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (D965) (read more here).  Perhaps the protagonist is a young shepherd looking down from a mountain to the river below. creating a nice connection with the other songs in this group.  With Der Schmetterling D633 (1819) we return to brisk, sunlight physicality, the piano part suggesting flapping wings. Die Sterne D684 (1820) recaps the mood of nocturnal repose in  Der Fluß  while the text of Die Gebüsche D646 (1819) reiterates the mood of the first song, Abendröte.: "Durch alle Töne tönet im bunten Erdentraume.ein leiser Ton gezogen Für den, der heimlich lauschet".  August von SchlegelAugmenting the settings of Friedrich von Schlegel, four settings of poems by his brother August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767-1845) less successful in a material sense, but also influential, and cosmopolitan.  Lob der Tränen D711 1818, Die gefangenen Sänger D712 (1821), Wiedersehn D855 (1825) and Abdendlied für die Entferne D856 (1825) plus one of Schlegel's translations of Shakespeare, Ständchen D889 (1826) "Horch, horch, die Lerch!"   Ace programme planning!  Markus Schäfer with pianist Piers Lane gave an earnest performance, but the choice of songs was so erudite that it was well worth enduring the horrendous traffic jams in central London before and after the show.  Hyde Park was mayhem, roads blocked for 50,000 fans and Justin Bieber.  Meanwhile, at the Wigmore Hall, our minds were focussed on philosophic ideals. This review also appears in Opera Today 

Franz Schubert
(1797 – 1828)

Franz Schubert (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer. Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in Schubert's work increased dramatically in the decades following his death at the age of 31. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th Century. Today, Schubert is admired as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.



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