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8.550475 - SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas Nos. 21, D. 960 and 19, D. 958
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Sonata in C Minor, D. 958
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a school-master, whose path it seemed he might follow as an assistant teacher. He enjoyed a sound musical training as a cathedral chorister and when his voice broke in 1812 rejected the offered scholarship and further general education in favour of a career that allowed him more time for music. In 1814 he embarked on a course as a primary school teacher and the following year joined his father, although he showed no great aptitude for his new profession, which he was to practise intermittently, as need arose, for a year or so. The greater part of the remaining years of his life were devoted to music and to the company of his friends. By the time of his death in 1828 some of his music had been published and there was increasing interest in his compositions. Nevertheless he never held any official position in the musical establishment in Vienna and much of what he wrote was intended for the entertainment of his own circle, which included bath professional and amateur musicians, poets and painters.
The death of Beethoven in 1827 seems to have suggested to Schubert the possibility that he might become his musical successor. This ambition, whether overt or not, found some immediate expression in the three piano sonatas of 1828, completed in September, some six weeks before his own death. Schubert proposed a dedication to Hummel, a pupil of Mozart, leading pianist and successful composer, whom he had met in 1827. When the sonatas were finally published, posthumously, the dedication by the publisher was to Robert Schumann, who did much to bring the music of Schubert to public notice in the second quarter of the 19th century. Schubert played all three sonatas on 27th September at a party at the house of Dr. Ignaz Menz.
The Sonata in C minor, D. 958, opens with a heroic figure that Beethoven might have used. There is a gentler second subject in the expected key of E flat major, and a central development that starts dramatically enough, before moving into a much gentler mood which nevertheless explores the wider range of the contemporary piano. The A fiat major Adagio is daring in its harmonic imagination, a sign of things to come. It is followed by a C minor Minuet with an A fiat major Trio. The final rondo has the vigour and energy of a tarantella, its headlong rhythm interrupted by contrasting episodes.
The last of the 1828 sonatas, the Sonata in B flat major, D. 960, opens in a manner characteristic of many of Schubert's songs and its gentle first theme dominates the extended movement. The slow movement, moving from C sharp minor to A major and to a final C sharp major has about it a beautiful serenity and is followed by a delicately graceful scherzo in B fiat major, framing a solemn Trio in the tonic minor key. The final rondo starts in harmonic ambiguity, suggesting the influence of Beethoven's substituted final movement for his Opus 130 String Quartet, and exemplifying the quality of heavenly length so often cited by writers on Schubert.
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