|About this Recording
8.550730 - SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas, D. 784 and D. 894
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Piano Sonata in A Minor, Op. Posth. 143, D. 784
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, 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 both professional and amateur musicians, poets and painters. In particular he composed a very large number of songs, using his innate gift for apt melody and ability to express the dramatic or poignant in a miniature and concentrated form. Schubert left fifteen complete piano sonatas, written between 1815 and the year of his death. A number of other works in the same form remained unfinished in one way or another.
In 1823, the year in which he wrote the Sonata in A minor, D. 784, Schubert's health gave some cause for concern. The venereal infection that he had contracted led to a period in hospital and to thoughts of inevitable death. In February he had written the sonata, but he was able to work in the spring and early summer on his opera Fierabras and even in hospital on the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin. In February he had written the Wanderer Fantasia and had also been concerned to arrange a performance of his opera Alfonso and Estrella. The preceding years had found Schubert experimenting with the form of the piano sonata. In 1819 he had completed a Sonata in A major, in three movements. The A minor Sonata, also in only three movements, opens ominously enough, the descending intervals of the end of its opening phrase leading to a funereal first subject, to which the gentle E major second subject provides a marked contrast. The central development avoids reference to this second subject, which only re-appears in a delicately varied rhythm in the third, recapitulatory section of the movement. The slow movement, marked Andante, is in F major and follows its opening phrase with muted comment, a rhythmic element that makes later appearances, as the movement unfolds. There are shifts of key and mood in a movement generally dominated by the two elements of the opening. The final movement has a principal subject in rapid triplet rhythm, contrasted with a lyrical secondary theme in F major. It re-appears in C major, after the second appearance of the main subject, which on its third entry is taken into remoter keys, before the expected version of the secondary theme in A major, followed by a brief and stormy return of the first subject to reassert the original minor mode.
The Sonata in G major, D. 894, is a work on a much larger scale. It was written in October 1826 and issued the following year by the publisher Tobias Haslinger as Fantasie, Andante, Menuetto and Allegretto. Schubert had again been ill during part of the summer, and had also found occasion to write to two well known publishers in Germany in an attempt to interest them in his work. His proposals to Breitkopf und Härtel and to Probst were both rejected on this occasion. It is possible that the composer played the first movement of this sonata on 8th December at the house of his friend Josef von Spaun, the founder of the Schubert circle and host of many musical evenings, Schubertiades, at which new compositions by the composer were performed. The sonata was dedicated to Spaun.
Schumann described the G major Sonata as Schubert's most perfect in form and spirit. The chordal first subject, as always suggesting a Schubert song, is followed by a lilting second subject, both of which are treated in the dramatic central development, before their final recapitulation in w hat, in spite of Haslinger, is in the expected tripartite sonata-form structure. The gentle principal melody of the second movement punctuates episodes of stronger dynamic contrast, including an excursion from D major into D minor. This movement is followed by a B minor Minuet with a contrasting B major Trio, a whispered Ländler. The last of the four movements has unusual formal features. It is a Rondo, but included in it is a self-sufficient E flat major dance, with its own contrasted central section in C major. This diversion at the heart of the movement is, nevertheless, an essential part of the whole structure, to which it is closely related.
Close the window